Language Teaching in Sweden
Hoover Institution Archivist Elena Danielson holds up the Swedish model,
which applies to a country whose immigration problem is small. Elena got
her Ph.D. in German, and thus has a proper respect for grammar, the more
complicated the better.
"Re language learning: When we lived in Sweden in the 1980s, it was clear
that the country had a consensus that everyone should know English as a
lingua franca. Even our chimney sweep and babysitters spoke good English
with ease, something I cannot count on in World. I was surprised to
see that the basis for this nearly universal second language ability was
very conventional public school classes with conventional textbooks. Of
course students are encouraged to travel and work in the US and Britain to
gain fluency, but the grounding in grammar and vocabulary comes from a
regular classroom experience. As foreigners we had a right to free Swedish
classes, which I took at an adult education program sponsored by the unions.
The children of foreigners had a right to reading and writing instruction in
their native language so that would be literate in their first language.
This particular program was expensive to implement, especially if there was
just one Vietnamese child in a school for instance, but the attempt was
made. The program was supported by the right wing in the hopes that the
foreigners would be better prepared to return to their homelands, and it was
supported by the left wing because it opened up public school teaching
positions for refugees. But in general language learning was considered
something normal people do, nothing heroic about it."
Ronald Hilton - 05/18/98