Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Teaching Svenska Around the Värld: Money Matters

This isn’t a funny post. I didn’t do anything ridiculous this time. I didn’t embarrass myself. Or get yelled at. Or fail as an adult. This is one of those serious ones where I reveal my biases.

For years and years, the Swedish government has supported Swedish instruction around the world. This has taken the form of professional development, jobs, grants for translators, even text books purchased for students (something many of my former students have benefited from when they all received free copies of Bröderna Lejonhjärta, which we used in our second semester course).

A lot of this support comes from the Swedish Institute, Svenska institutet, SI. They are an amazing group of people, some of whom I have met and worked with. They all have specific jobs, but generally speaking, they are cultural ambassadors for Sweden and support the 38 000 students at 228 universities in 39 countries who are learning Swedish. I know there are more students learning French. Or Spanish. But 38 000 new Swedish speakers for a country of nine and a half million is a big deal.

By the way, I grabbed those statistics directly from an article written the other day by Olle Wästberg. The article, titled “Ändra beslutet att slopa stöd till svenskundervisning,” was published in Dagens Nyheter yesterday. It’s worth reading. Especially considering that I know many readers of this blog have, at one point or another, taken Swedish courses abroad. Chances are that you benefited from SI without even knowing it.

A few years ago, the government in power decided to shut down a few of these cultural centers abroad. They were dissuaded. Luckily. Unfortunately, they did reduce financial support for instruction and translation of Swedish abroad.

A few days ago, the government in power decided to shut down a few of these cultural centers abroad. They look to have been dissuaded. Luckily. Unfortunately, they still plan to reduce financial support for instruction and translation of Swedish abroad and by 2017 killing that funding completely.

People are starting to take note. It’s a very shortsighted approach by a very small country that is a very active member of a very globalized economy and culture. I’m obviously biased. Horribly, horribly biased. I’m kind of ok with that bias.

There are petitions that have been started. One by a professor of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Illinois garnered over 1 000 signatures in less than 24 hours. Not huge numbers, but nothing to sneeze at. Articles, along with Wästberg’s, have begun popping up in Swedish newspapers. People have started emailing Sweden's Minister of Education and Research Helene Hellmark Knutsson, who has some say in all of this. They’re sending their own stories about learning Swedish abroad, the importance of cross-cultural support, and the long-term benefits of organizations like SI. You can do all of those things. And you should.

Welcome to Sweden. But, you know, only if you’re actually IN Sweden.


  1. Nice. I have Rosetta Stone and am trying to learn Swedish, but it would be nice to have more support in the U.S.

    Also signed petition...

  2. Great, thanks everyone! The petition has almost reached 3 000 signatures.