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Swedish school asks kids to translate ‘Negro’

The Local · 22 Mar 2012, 08:17

Published: 22 Mar 2012 08:17 GMT+01:00

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“This just can’t happen. It’s a good thing that the students have reacted,” said principal Björn Blomgren to local paper Göteborgsposten (GP).

At the Streteredsskolan in Gothenburg, some ten percent of the student body has an immigrant background. Across the street from the school is located one of the Swedish Migration Board’s (Migrationsverket) refugee homes, according to GP.

Over the last two weeks, some students have been given worksheets with translation examples such as “the Negroes were eaten by the wolves” and “I don’t like the story about the Negroes”.

“These are extra assignments we have been given,” said one student to the paper, adding that it has been discussed at home whether the assignment was appropriate but not in school.

Principal Blomgren was shocked to see the contents of the worksheets.

“I have never seen this before. The words are so degrading that they should not occur. Of course it is inappropriate with the set of values we have in school. We certainly don’t use the word ‘negro’ here,” he told GP.

However, the teacher who has been handing out the worksheets told the paper that it was unfortunate if anyone had been offended.

She added that she generally brings up words that have changed over time like “gay” which can mean both “happy” and “homosexual” as well as “mouse” which can be used about both the animal and the computer device.

“The word ‘negro’ appears when you read about slavery in the US as well as about the music ‘negro spirituals’. There are many emotionally charged words out there and I explain them as and when they crop up,” she told GP.

Story continues below…

TT/The Local/rm


The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

08:49 March 22, 2012 by phil23456
And this is an actual story? Isn't there more important things going on?
09:07 March 22, 2012 by towns
The local really knows how to scrape the bottom of the barrel for news articles and most people buy it. I can't wait to hear people going at each other over this article.
09:21 March 22, 2012 by Antonito
I know some people (e.g. from Asia, South America) use the word negro to describe black people. A mistake that could be avoided if the right words to describe what we want to express were known. If I know what negro means and that it is a derogative word, it is up to me to whether to use or not or to find the appropriate words to express myself.

SUDACA is a derogative word for Southamericans, usually employed by Spanish people. I know a Swedish guy who was referring as SUDACA to a Peruvian classmate. I explained him the real meaning of the word. He believed that sudaca is to Southamerican like Asussie is to Australians.
09:22 March 22, 2012 by Stonebridge
I agree with the above. Another non-news story.

If you are learning a language you cannot censor words you don't like.
09:30 March 22, 2012 by EP
Although I don't know what is offensive about the word Negro, the sentences using the term are stupid and ignorant, and most importantly childish ...
09:43 March 22, 2012 by helzkeeper
This article is about the historic term. For an overview of the subject, see Black people. For the pro wrestler, see Sin Cara Negro.

The word "Negro" is used in the English-speaking world to refer to a person of black ancestry or appearance, whether of African descent or not. The word negro means 'black' in Spanish and Portuguese, from the Latin niger, 'black', probably from a Proto-Indo-European root *nekw-, 'to be dark', akin to *nokw- 'night'.[1][2]

"Negro" superseded "colored" as the most polite terminology, at a time when "black" was more offensive.[3] This usage was accepted as normal, even by people classified as Negroes, until the later Civil Rights movement in the late 1960s. One well-known example is the identification by Martin Luther King, Jr. of his own race as 'Negro' in his famous 1963 speech I Have a Dream
10:05 March 22, 2012 by AmSwedish
EP got it right: "Although I don't know what is offensive about the word Negro, the sentences using the term are stupid and ignorant, and most importantly childish ... The word "Negro" (which should have been capitalized) is no more offensive in describing race than the word "Caucasion." What the pupils should have reacted to was the context in which the word was used in, not only one, but two sentences. There are an infinite number of sentences using the word "Negro" that could have been composed for the exercise, including this one: "The word 'Negro' is not used much any longer since people of African descent prefer 'black' or a hyphenated indication of their ethnicity such as 'African-American.'"
10:05 March 22, 2012 by bourgeoisieboheme
Now, if it was the word, Ni**er then I could see this being an issue... but the word Negro causes offense? If that is true then I should get offended when people call me white correct?
10:34 March 22, 2012 by StockholmSam
As long as the teacher starts including the words cracker, whitey, wetback, chink and spic in her curriculum, no problem.
10:37 March 22, 2012 by johan rebel
Oh dear, here we go again . . . .

The Swedish PC establishment does not only want to ban the N word from their own language, but now from English as well.

These people must have far too much time on their hands, and far too little intellectual capacity to but their brains to better use.
10:40 March 22, 2012 by StockholmSam
A mind is a terrible thing to waste.


'nuff said.
10:52 March 22, 2012 by Borilla
"Negro" is an accepted term in English usage, both historically and currently. It can be offensive just as the use of the term "black" can be offensive. It depends on the usage. The reaction of the principal is typically Swedish. Any claim of offense provokes an immediate apology whether or not one is required. Swedish educational standards are on the decline. When the students know, as so many do, that they can avoid work and intimidate the faculty by making unjustified claims, they do so. When students learning English as a second or third language complain about being offended by a term used in their second or third language, shouldn't one first examine in detail whether there is a basis for the complaint?
10:56 March 22, 2012 by occassional
Haven't we had enough of this?
11:35 March 22, 2012 by rise
Negro = neger:


I fail to see the interesting part of it.
12:19 March 22, 2012 by Hedley
"neger" is a word that I read for first time in a Pippi longstocking children book. What is the big deal?
12:20 March 22, 2012 by Frobobbles
Suppose you need to translate an old text, maybe something by Mark Twain. Do they consider it good not to be able to?
12:36 March 22, 2012 by notpresto
I am stil getting over having nigger balls for lunch.
13:50 March 22, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
English is a 2nd language for 95% of Swedes, and they get a few things wrong.

For example, I'm surprised by how often young Swedes throw the English word f--k around, partly because it is less offensive for them. I'm not a puritan, and know that swearing can add an element of intended humour to emotional outbursts, but they sometimes tend to get carried awa with the use of that word.

Likewise the word 'negro' appears to be extra offensive in their judgement. Right up to his death in the late 1960's, Dr. Martin Luther King jr used the word 'negro ' thousands of times in his speaches, with no intent to offend anyone. Since then it has fallen out of fashion, and is considered impolite to use these days, but knowing how to translate this word would be essential to anyone interested in reading any American literature, non-fiction, or news accounts from the years 1600 to 1975.
13:56 March 22, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
How is "Negro" an offensive word? It's proper English to describe that particular race of people, just as "Caucasian" is. Is Sweden seriously more PC than the USA?? Pffttt!
14:04 March 22, 2012 by Migga
Negro or Neger in Swedish is not the same word as Nigger. The words are charged with totally different values. Neger comes from the latin word Niger, which means black. Nothing wrong with that. Neger wasn`t used in Sweden to talk down to anyone as it is in the USA, it`s used to explain something that is black.

For exampel Negerbollar, Negerkyssar or black people, Negrer. Negroballs, Negrokisses or Negros.
14:28 March 22, 2012 by Greysuede
Negro isn't offensive but name of the race.

Negro (Negroes) - Relating to or characteristic of or being a member of the traditional racial division of mankind having brown to black pigmentation and tightly curled hair or a person /persons/ with dark skin who comes from Africa (or whose ancestors came from Africa)
15:41 March 22, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
Wow! The Local seems to have removed all the comments about this article! Shame on them for being the thought police!
17:24 March 22, 2012 by libertarianism
The example sentences are bizarre. Did they come from some larger text perhaps? Are they from some historic work?

The teacher's explanation seemed thoughtful and practical enough.

Re #7 and "Black" vs "African-American", I've heard people (whose families have been in the US for generations)say they find African-American offensive because they consider an African-American to be someone who was born in Africa. Having been in the US for generations, they instead identify as American, period, and don't want a qualifier that sets them apart.

And then other people have said that African-American refers to people who identify as being descendents of US slaves, and so people in the US from the Carribean, for example, refer to themselves as Black and not African-American. Or maybe Caribbean-American Blacks?

And I believe a Canadian-Swede filed a complaint with the DO sometime back because she said the word "Indian" was racist hate speech. To my understanding, native peoples in the US refer to themselves by their unique tribe name, as Indians, or as Native Americans. In other words, "Indian" isn't a "bad" word in the US, according to US Indians.

Does that mean though that Canadian English speakers are going to dictate how I speak my native language in Sweden?? If I use the word "Indian" in Sweden, am I going to get charged with hate speech??

The PC mania continues... sigh...
17:30 March 22, 2012 by Morenikeji
First of all, I think it is appropriate for The Local to report this. After all one of the biggest newspapers in Sweden, The Gothenburg Post, reported it. Secondly I think reacting to the use of the word negro the way the principal of the school had done is a little too much. However if the context in the way the word was used was derogatory then one needs to call attention to that, "the Negroes were eaten by the wolves" and "I don't like the story about the Negroes". seem really odd as chosen passage for translation by students, except their teacher harbour some prejudicial feeling about the negroes. My feeling is that what the principal was reacting to was perhaps the whole text and not just the word negro.
17:53 March 22, 2012 by Liferider
Negro is a racist word.we don't have to to use that word as common word.Every country people called by there names china is Chinese people,Japan is Japanese,India is Indian,Sweden is Swedish.But there is no country belong to negro.Its a racist word which was used before.
18:06 March 22, 2012 by SergioSver
I told it several times and would like to repeat it again.

Some words have different meaning and connotations today. For instance a word

" Anführer" means nothing but " a leader" in German.

However, when in current economic crisis Europe is asking for German leadership role, many German newspapers are avoiding using this precise word FUHRER. I have not seen them asking ms Merkel to be a Fuhrer of Europe or adopt Fuhrership of Germany.

I do not know why German public or German newspapers in particular shun this word, can not even guess why; after all noone would shun using a word " leader" in English. But the fact is that they are doing it.
18:28 March 22, 2012 by AndreaGerak

Hitler was called "Führer", and this word has a Nazi connotation

A little history of Europe :-)
22:00 March 22, 2012 by Carbarrister
I guess I should stop contributing money to the United Negro College Fund.

give.uncf.org/ until they change their name.
22:09 March 22, 2012 by dizzymoe33
Well here in the States the blacks really enjoy using the that word towards each other and it is okay but look out if a light skinned person says this word and World stops spinning!!

Just like the Swastika used to be a symbol that stood for positive things until World War II broke out and Hitler used that symbol for evil!!

Maybe those of us who are light skinned should start screaming racism when the dark skinned people call us "Crackers"!!
01:32 March 23, 2012 by Da Goat
What a load of BS

of all the words that are used to describe our darker skinned brothers Negro is probably the only word that is PC (or Most correct to use)

As always it is the context of the whole sentence or even the tone of voice that is important! Written text is impossible to judge correctly!
01:44 March 23, 2012 by ctinej
I prefer to be called the slang word appropriate to my location:

Gringo while in Mexico

Howlie while in Hawaii

Red neck while in San Francisco

Dumb Swede while in Norway or Denmark

Norga while in Switzerland or Germany

Blondie in most places.

And do I care???? Of course not. What is the big deal??? If it weren't for Italian jokes, I would have missed half the laughs I had growing up.

The United Negro College Fund was started by black people.

Find a news story, not this trivial rubbish.
02:34 March 23, 2012 by TheWatchman
It's fine in historical terms like an old book for example, but there's no need for that word now.
19:30 March 24, 2012 by stevo1
funny how ppl slag TheLocal for printing these stories, but considering they ONLY translate media stories for the day, it's apparent some natives misdirect their sarcasm.

if the story is average or just plain stupid, wouldn't it be better to have a shot at Swedish journalists instead of the translators?

Maybe thelocal can reference the journalist and paper the story comes from each day...
17:11 March 25, 2012 by Winster
Being black I have never heard the word "negro" or "neger" used in any everyday conversation in Swedish or English - born in Sweden but living in the UK for 12 years. Yes - I would take offence. But, if its such a neutral word, why haven't I heard it? Do white people save it to when they are chatting amongst themselves with no blacks around? If so - they must realise that its an offensive word to most people? In any case, of course this word should not be used in education or government, it makes Sweden seem retarded.
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