The University

“A national language strategy is needed”

2017-11-03

The need for language skills is constantly growing and it is high time that Sweden prepares a language strategy to be able to meet the needs, notes Coco Norén, Dean of the Faculty of Languages.

Hello there Coco Norén, Dean of the Faculty of Languages. You have been a part of a working group at the Association of Swedish Higher Education (SUHF) that has written a report on the need for a national language strategy for Sweden. What did you conclude in the report?

“We need to be able to systematically meet the growing demand for language expertise, demand that is growing not least due to migration. To handle migration, we also need to do more research on multilingualism and Swedish as second language, and one constantly recurring issue not yet resolved is how we will be able to maintain the broad language expertise.”

But the faculty manages to provide education in more than 50 different languages, half of which are only at Uppsala University?

“Yes, our faculty is able to provide education and conduct research in many languages, but it’s a vulnerable system for Sweden when the languages are only at one university. And Uppsala University needs better conditions for the languages we have today. Training in language skills demands a lot more resources than today’s allocation.”

What’s the solution?

“We need a national language strategy that is based on the needs and opportunities of broad language expertise in Sweden and that clearly shows how it should be achieved and what resources should be used.”

What is happening now?

“The report has been sent to the Ministry of Education and the Government, and while we await a response, we are presenting the report’s conclusions in various contexts.  Of course, we are also using the material in our own planning and in the collaboration with other universities.” 

What reaction are you hoping for from the Government?

“I hope a government commission will be appointed to develop a national language strategy that supplements our report with needs from other sectors, such as politics and business. But ultimately, I of course hope for a major initiative in greater research-based language expertise in Sweden. There are numerous needs where we have to provide education and conduct research: Swedish as second language, plain language, unutilised resources in the form of the speaking of mother tongues, minority languages, migration and integration, to name a few.”

But isn’t it enough with English?

“No, we have to invest in multilingualism, English is not enough! As an export country, Sweden in particular is dependent on good language skills. For example, the EU has set the goal that everyone should master two foreign languages. But young people in Sweden often do the opposite; there’s a tendency to opt out of modern languages in school. There, the university plays an incredibly important role to provide the opportunity to learn a foreign language at any time in life to be able to use it in a profession and gain a deeper understanding of other cultures.”

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Facts

The report “The Need for a new language strategy for Sweden” is written by the national working group for language subjects as the Association of Swedish Higher Education (SUHF).