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Swedish funding bodies: 'Apply in English'

Charlotte West · 23 Dec 2009, 09:23

Published: 23 Dec 2009 09:23 GMT+01:00

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The new language law came into force on July 1st 2009, making Swedish the country's official "main language".

But the research funding bodies claim that applications in Swedish make it difficult to maintain the desired quality due to the international nature of the research community.

The petitioning organizations include the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet), the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (Formas) and the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems (VINNOVA).

"Research is international and is becoming all that much more so. Research of the highest scientific quality within the majority of academic disciplines should be evaluated in an international perspective and by international experts - in other languages than Swedish," the organizations write in the petition.

They continue by stating that English is often the lingua franca of the scientific community.

Story continues below…

"The background for this (English) language requirement is that the research funding bodies are of the opinion that they cannot achieve their quality requirements, which were established by the Swedish government, if applications are only evaluated by researchers who have mastered the Swedish language."

Charlotte West (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

10:11 December 23, 2009 by stupr
I work in an English speaking organisation, and am a native speaker. The reason our working language is English is due to the international field of our work. It is the only way that makes sense. In some of our offices Spanish is also widely used, again as it makes sense to do so.

I fully agree with Sweden wanting to keep their language as the main one, as should any country, however as soon as you begin to work in an international arena (outside of Scandinavia) you are more than likely going to benefit from incorporating English to your working practise. I fail to understand why educated people cannot grasp this.
10:24 December 23, 2009 by G Kin
The problem is swede's stuborness with swedishness!

That is one of the main reasons nonswedish speakers have problems in swedish work environments.
10:54 December 23, 2009 by krigeren
Most Swedish business people tell me. We are a small country without much of a domestic market. We have to think at our products as having a wider appeal than just Sweden in order to be a success............

English is the lingua franca of international business and education for the most part followed by Spanish......

Its better to face realistic problems with realistic solutions. No one is lining up to learn Swedish outside of Sweden because its going to give them a competitive advantage.
11:19 December 23, 2009 by Marc the Texan
If Swedes don't want Swedish to become extinct, then Swedish needs to be used in Science. Important science conducted in English should also be translated into Swedish otherwise the Swedish scientific lexicon will atrophy and die altogether. Swedish is on track to being anglicized out of existence. Really a shame in my opinion.
12:04 December 23, 2009 by Kevin Harris
Fortunately, language development responds only to the needs of its users. People can't be forced to use a language, and those that try to apply such force find themselves amongst some very unpleasant historic company.

Language doesn't respect legislation or the opinions of experts. It just does develops in its own way regardless.

Think of language development as gravity. Like it, or dislike it, it's still there, and we're all just going to have to deal with it. If you want to avoid language development or gravity, you really have to leave the planet, which perhaps is a good idea for the legislators of the Swedish Language Law 2009.
12:05 December 23, 2009 by krrodman
Expertise is international these days. As a citizen of the USA, nothing makes me happier than to import an expert from a foreign country. It is a huge bonus to my country. and simultaneously a huge loss to the expert's country of origin.

Sweden exports its greatest commodity, intellectual expertise, all over the world. If at the same time they make it difficult for experts to come to Sweden, the "brain drain" will be catastrophic.
14:13 December 23, 2009 by Bender B Rodriquez
@ Marc the Texan: The Swedish language is not yet even close to extinction in the scientific community. As a scientist I speak and write in Swedish when working with colleagues, but scientific articles, books and grant applications have to be in English to ensure the quality of peer review. There is no need to translate literature into Swedish. In fact it would be an enormous waste of time and money that could be better spent elsewhere.
15:45 December 23, 2009 by Beynch
There is no problem with requiring some research organizations to ask for some applications in English. The issue is rather the propensity of the Swedish language to import English words, and anglisize them, when they do not fit Swedish grammar and pronunciation rules. I have premature birth every time I hear young people saying "Ja, de e coolt". (Swedish can not use the letter "c" in this way.(It would be "k") Swedish does not have the double "oo". Putting the inflected suffix "t" on an English adjective is aestetically abhorrent and offensive). It is my opinion that to the extent English vocabulary is imported it should be re-spelled to fit Swedish grammar, spelling and, expecially, suffix rules. Most imported words already have an excellent Swedish equivalent, making the importation completely unnecessary. I challenge you to show me an English word, including scientific ones, which does not.
00:07 December 24, 2009 by Bender B Rodriquez
Importing English words and "anglicize" them is impossible since they are already English...
10:12 December 24, 2009 by skatty
I didn't know that Sweden didn't have any official main language!!

Does it mean that now nobody in Sweden supposes to use English in Swedish organizations? I suggest the authority to close that organization.
14:16 December 24, 2009 by Rick Methven
I have experience in working for Companies in both Holland and Sweden, two countries with a language that is only spoken by the local population. I worked for the Fokker Aircraft Company in Holland and although a 50% government owned company the lingua franca was English as the local market represented about 1% of the the total

Similarly, the language spoken in SAAB Aerospace when I worked for them was English. Swedes who I employed in SAAB had to have excellent English to have any career prospects. All applications for employment by both Swedes and foreigners was in English.

This is not an insult to Sweden or to belittle the language but just recognition of the fact that to expand market penetration beyond Sweden and to attract people with the relevant skills and experience you have to look beyond national boundaries and language
17:42 December 24, 2009 by Greg in Canada
If you're going to play outside of your own backyard then you can't use the Swedish language exclusively. English is the international language of science, technology and business. That's just the way it is.

Quebec seems to be the only place that refuses to acknowlege this reality.:-)
13:28 December 25, 2009 by Marc the Texan
@Bender - I realize that English is the language of science and I wouldn't suggest changing it. I'm speaking more generally about the Swedish lexicon. If you don't think Swedish is in danger of extinction, leave for a few years then return. Do you know how to boil a frog?

@Kevin - People CAN be forced to use a language. It's why we primarily speak English in America and not German. That also goes for Brazil if it wasn't for the government forcing the large German population to speak Portuguese.
21:51 December 25, 2009 by WriterDirector
If Sweden is going to use Swedish as the main lingo, then perhaps they should discontinue the use of English in their Television commercials. This sends mixed messages. Either Sh*t or get off the pot Sweden. : ))
08:33 December 26, 2009 by Hedley
Ok, I really hate English, since it is not my native language: Spanish is my native language.

However, whenever I speak to classmate in Iran or Pakistan I am forced to use English!

USA is the wealthiest and poweful country in the world (Obama killed a fly and it was an important fact), and English as a second language in all the world, as a by-product of this fact.
11:49 December 26, 2009 by skatty
@Marc the Texan

In my opinion, language is an instrument for communication and expression. As an instrument, Swedish language has very limited use, so limited that it has to accept English in its different organizations. When you take America and Brazil as an example, don't forget both countries were colonies and their laws imported by UK and Portugal. However, at present there are many states in west US, where Spanish is dominated because of the large number of Spanish speakers and not any organization can works just by English there. Sweden is not a colony; nobody enforced any language on it.

If you look carefully in history, there were always some languages dominated in the world for particular reasons, for example Latin in the whole Europe were the language of Science, church and Law similar to Arabic in east, which was the common language of Science and Law!
19:15 December 26, 2009 by proteasome
I have been writing Swedish grants for 11 years in English. Having English be my native language probably gave me an advantage over Swedes over the years. Not the greatest researcher in the world but managed to get VR every year. It cuts both ways though, the science textbooks are all in English (no one willing or have enough cash to publish Swedish versions) most work discussions have been in English for the last decade, majority of lectures were in English, after 11 years applied for a permanent position at my place and they said I could not have an interview because my Swedish was too poor, which I don't disagree with but there was never time to practice or use Swedish. Took swedish language courses but it was hopeless with speaking English to my kids at home and English at work. Unemployed for 2010 heading back to the States, tail between the legs.
11:25 December 27, 2009 by lungfish
proteasome, I suspect that you've fallen victim to another unacknowledged reality in Swedish field, that there are some very second rate researchers who resist the acceptance of english since they will then be competitively disadvantaged by english speaking international researchers. How do you protect your job in a Swedish university if you're a poor researcher and/or teacher? Keep out people who have poor Swedish language skills. Great for entrenching the brain drain. And, english is not a problem for Swedish students. It's generally only a problem for the aforementioned second rate performers and for older generations who've built their careers in a Swedish context and not an international context.
15:39 December 27, 2009 by Audrian
Using English as a major language can be problematic in the shortrun particularly for those who have growen to speak the Swedish langage only. If English is taught from 1st grade the next generation will get used to speaking both Swedish and English fluently.

In the long run the benefits of speaking english can be imense. The majority of scientific papers are written in English. A good educational system and good command of the English language will put the Sweeds catch up with the fast developing new knowledge in basic science and technology.

Internationally, speaking fluent English could give educated Sweds a competitive advantage.
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