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SFI teachers need better education: expert

TT/Clara Guibourg · 28 Dec 2012, 11:06

Published: 28 Dec 2012 11:06 GMT+01:00

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With Sweden’s recently introduced teaching certificate, studying just one term of Swedish as a second language is sufficient to become an SFI (Svenska för invandrare) teacher.

“If we want SFI teachers to be reasonably competent, the requirements ought to be at least double,” said the government’s SFI investigator Christer Hallerby to Sveriges Radio (SR).

While one term of Swedish as a second language is enough for SFI, teaching a subject in middle school requires studying that subject for three terms.

However, if the requirements are raised it may be difficult to find teachers.

At least 60 percent of SFI teachers must be certified and reach the minimum requirements, and according to representatives from Södertälje’s SFI education, it’s hard enough to find qualified teachers today.

“It would be very hard, at least at first. Unless the job becomes more appealing, so that more people want to become certified,” Jussi Koreila, principal of the SFI education in Södertälje, told SR.

Inga-Lena Rydén heads the National Centre for Swedish as a Second Language at Stockholm University. She also believes finding teachers may be difficult, but even so, remains critical of the low requirements for a job which often requires teaching illiterate students.

“I’d say that this is the most difficult teaching assignment you could have. You have to be able to alphabetize people who come from what we call spoken environments,” she said to SR.

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She suggests an alternative to low competence requirements: giving SFI schools more time to find competent teachers.

“SFI teachers could have been exempt from the certification requirement, and been given more time, instead of just lowering the requirements, which I find hard to understand. Lowering the requirements means lowering the value of the subject, which is unfortunate from a societal perspective.”

TT/Clara Guibourg (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

11:54 December 28, 2012 by skatty
I don't get why Swedes and Swedish Medias always consider Swedish language as a second language for immigrants.

The fact is that Swedish language can hardly be considered a second language! Most of the times, Swedish language is a third or fourth language, because it's a language that seldom anybody learn anywhere in the world. You should be ended up in Sweden by some reasons to learn Swedish language. Most of the countries teach English in high schools or even junior high schools, in some countries French or German language or even Spanish but Swedish is almost impossible (may be just in Finland or Scandinavian countries!).

Why it is mentioned Swedish as a second language in the Medias, I just wonder!
13:01 December 28, 2012 by StockholmSam

The term "second language" refers to any language that is not your main mothertongue. If you are born and raised in France and French is the language you speak and think in, that is your "first" language. If you subsequently learn Spanish, German and Italian - all fluently - those are second languages. If you later on learn conversational Swahili and Finnish, those are also second languages. It has nothing to do with the order in which you learn them; it has to do with the fact that the first language is your emotive language, the language you think in, whereas the others are languages you speak but do not think in.
13:24 December 28, 2012 by muscle
When I was in Ronneby / Karlskrona (very small towns), the SFI teachers were simply brilliant! They were like school teachers who tried their best to teach the students and they really did a brilliant job.

But now that I came to Stockholm, the teachers aren't very trained. Most of the times the classes are extremely slow.

Perhaps it has to do with the composition of the classes as well. In ronneby, my class mates used to be university students who were studying in Blekinge Tekniska Högskola. And here in Stockholm, the class mates are usually non-students.
13:54 December 28, 2012 by skatty

Good point, but still for me it's a problem. As a matter of fact from linguistic point of view it's a problem.

You learn a foreign language better when you are young. I mean if somebody gets an ordinary education at school and learn a foreign language; the second one probably would be some common languages like English, French, German or Spanish not Swedish; unless you live in Sweden. In that case Swedish as a second or let say third language would be harder to learn than for example English (which actually is more useful and more common to use in different countries). However, I know people who replaced Swedish language with English. I mean I know persons, who could speak English or French (they learned it at school as second language) but learned Swedish and replaced English language. They speak Swedish better than English (they practiced Swedish and stopped practicing English) but their ability to communicate internationally is much limited now!

My point in Second and Third language is from scientific study of human language and human ability in communication; not the classification of all foreign languages as second one and the native language as first one! If somebody learn many different languages, then probably that person would speak some languages better than the others, and there is a first, second, third language for the person him/herself in the case of communication, understanding and expression in different levels.
14:22 December 28, 2012 by aurelda
I am an SFI student and I am extremely satisfied with my swedish school and classes (Sveavägen, Stockholm). The organization is really good and the teachings are very professional. I had several teachers and they were all very prepared and they usually speak more than one language.

Moreover, when I started to be better with my Swedish they moved me in more advanced classes and these little challenges keep me always motivated and willing to learn.

It is true that sometimes the classes are slow, but I think that students learn at different speeds and the ones who want to learn faster can still do it through films, music and real conversations and extra curses that are provided at the SFI.

I studied Swedish in a private school as weel and I would definitely recommend the SFI. It is free, it is flexible, you have a lot of different curses, and their goal is not to take money from the students and this means that in the class teachers and students share the same objects...to learn swedish!!!!!!
15:27 December 28, 2012 by emballagen
the best place to learn SFI should be the workplace... take all the SFI students into the factories and they will be speaking your language only after a year. I have been at sfi-klass only three months and started working... after a year could I be compared to someone who has been in Sweden for at least 5 years. One of my colleagues is from Irak. He never attended an sfi-klass and spoke no other language than arabic before. But now, he is good enough at speaking and understands very well all the work instructions. The only problem he has is reading since he never used other alphabet than Arabic. Learning through working is great!! At least, every sfi-student should have too days at school and three days at work. The results should be great.
19:03 December 28, 2012 by olga118
My experience with the SFI teachers here has been overwhelmingly positive. It is a very difficult job and I think they do it well.

"Swedish as a Second Language" is a bit of a misnomer. In the USA they have changed the name of the courses from "English as a Second Language" to "English for Speakers of Other Languages" which is probably a more accurate description.

Sometimes the best education is experience and I am not sure I agree that more education will equal better teachers.Teachers don't choose this career path because it is easy, it isn't. They do it because they believe they can make a difference and that should be applauded and supported.
20:09 December 28, 2012 by born2die
I think SFI teachers should get more trainning on Swedish. Why?

Few years back i was a SFI student, trying to learned Swedish, but most of the classes i been though none of the SFI teachers can explain why words are being this way or that way. All they said was ( svenska är konstig) and keep go on. If you're teaching the language you should know all the connection of the language. ex...adjektiv, konjunktioner, prepositioner, substantiv...etc.
20:27 December 28, 2012 by Schwoebel
Mariestad = awful teachers. Only one good one.
20:29 December 28, 2012 by johan rebel
The easier Sweden makes it for immigrants to isolate themselves in ghettos, the longer it will take them to learn Swedish. Only if they are compelled to use Swedish passively and actively on a daily basis will the really learn. Stop providing written material in 49 languages, stop providing translators, etc. Make 'm learn the hard way. That's the only way I've ever learned languages: immediate and complete immersion. If i could do it, so can they.
10:37 December 29, 2012 by gh2008
@ johan rebel

i am immigrant myself and i agree.

although it took me only 7 weeks to finish my whole SFI program it still hard for me to speak the language.

i fail to see the point why Sweden insists to corrupt its immigrants by spoiling their very first days in the country, providing language courses??? language?

it should come itself! i should feel that i need it, then and only then i would find my way to learn it. otherwise, keep wasting your time and money Sweden!

the other day, i was talking to a friend of mine (Swede) about the same problem and i have expressed my point the same way i did here. he turned back to me (joking) saying "you f$%^^ Iraqis come here and instead of showing appreciating you blame the system! typical of you).

i blame no one! it is just wrong and it needs to be corrected as soon as possible.
11:23 December 29, 2012 by Amber Dawn
The program needs an overhaul. It's really not fair that some programs are exemplary while others are frightening. I have had two wonderful teachers. One had no idea how to teach adults. One of her first classes (yes, we were in first weeks of the "intro" group, but we were all adults.) she brought in construction paper, scissors (the safety kind) and glue. She had us cut out a picture of children moving a table while the dad raked fall leaves, write two sentences about it, glue it all together and then she hung them all on the wall like we were 6. A visiting, part time teacher came in to help one day and our teacher showed her this wall, beaming with pride. Visiting teacher looked at them, then directly at me (we'd been talking before class) with wide eyes. I just shook my head. There were no safety scissors involved after that.

There really just needs to be more structure to the lesson planning. Perhaps offering transport to neighboring towns in order to get more people into groups that fit. The younger students and students of language, who have an easier time, they rush right through. Those who lack formal education, they work with very closely. Those of us who are somewhere in between, who have an education, but may be older and/or have a more difficult time learning languages, they haven't a clue what to do with.
04:09 December 30, 2012 by Enjoyourlife
We have a bunch of incompetence sfi teachers in our school. The school lacks organisation. The bring in new students all the time and merged them with old ones. At the end, the students are more confused. Some of the teachers lack skills. Sfi teachers should be given pedagogic skills as well. No lesson planning at all. Because we are studying swedish does not mean they should come to class and speak anything in swedish. That my school is a failure. I learn much from tv than from that school.
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