Other Discussions on Language

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