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Gunki Ström: ”They want to, they try, fail, try again”

There are expectations that people who are new in Sweden should speak the language – if they intend to settle in the country. But how can new arrivals who are adult catch up on half a life? After many years as a teacher of Swedish for immigrants (Sfi) my conclusion is this. They do not need assessments and demands, what they need is time.
Gunki Ström
Kristianstad • Publicerad 28 juni 2021 • Uppdaterad 29 juni 2021
Detta är en personligt skriven text i mosaik.kristianstadsbladet. Åsikter som uttrycks är skribentens egna.
An interim report which proposes that a knowledge of Swedish and social studies be made a requirement for Swedish citizenship for persons between 16 and 66.
An interim report which proposes that a knowledge of Swedish and social studies be made a requirement for Swedish citizenship for persons between 16 and 66.
Foto: Janerik Henriksson/TT

There is a government report with a proposal that to become a Swedish subject the applicant must have a good knowledge of Swedish and social studies.

Tests in Swedish should be the same as for Sfi (Swedish for immigrants) , that is, comprehension (listening and reading) and production (speaking and writing).

”There won't be more jobs although there are more demands”
Gunki Ström

It may seem obvious – if you want to live in a country, you ought to know the language. As a languages teacher I've often been asked, ”How long does it take to learn a language?” No matter what conclusion a government report presents, new arrivals must be given the opportunity to practise the language.

Various political parties have demanded that new arrivals must be able to make themselves understood and understand what is said, so that they can find work and support themselves.

Moderaterna put forward ”Clearer demands for better integration”. The idea is that higher demands will be a faster way to jobs and quicker integration.

”We native Swedes are often stressed, we have so much to do, and we don't take time to sit down and talk to our neighbour”
Gunki Ström

But there won't be more jobs although there are more demands. And there can be good reasons for not learning the language.

Swedes living in Spain use different strategies to cope with daily life. Our immigrants do exactly the same.

I taught for four years in an international school in Paris. I had colleagues from ten countries, including a Swedish one who had lived there for five years without learning French. Perhaps it was easier for that colleague to associate with Americans and British people who lived and worked in the same suburb.

I recognise this from Gamla Näsby, where I live now. That is also a segregated area.

Gunki Ström, Sfi-teacher in Östra Göinge.
Gunki Ström, Sfi-teacher in Östra Göinge.
Foto: Privat
”Before you insist on language-learning ask yourself what you can do for integration”
Gunki Ström

As a new arrival, it is good to be able to practise your language in the shops, with a neighbour, with a new friend. But we native Swedes are often stressed, we have so much to do, and we don't take time to sit down and talk to our neighbour from Eritrea or Syria.

As an Sfi-teacher I meet fantastic, enthusiastic people every day. They want to, they try, fail, try again, struggle on like a child in the world of language. They don't need assessments and demands, what they need is time. Time to take things in and digest what they have learnt, and the chance to practise what they know.

So please, before you insist on language-learning ask yourself what you can do for integration. It means more than you think. And you never know if or when you might be a refugee yourself one day, whether for political or environmental reasons.

Facts

Proposal for demands for citizenship

During the spring Statens offentliga utredningar (State Public Enquiries, SOU 2021:2) has submitted an interim report which proposes that a knowledge of Swedish and social studies be made a requirement for Swedish citizenship for persons between 16 and 66.