Push to ban foreign languages in Sweden schools to allow integration, understanding

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Sweden’s largest right-wing party has moved a motion to only use Swedish in schools during lessons and breaks to avoid exclusion and misunderstanding.

Right-wing Sweden Democrats in the town of Skurup have moved to ban Arabic and other foreign languages in local schools and seeking the move to be introduced from pre-school through high school.

There will be exceptions for regular language lessons and Sweden’s official so-called minority languages, Finnish, Yiddish, Romani and Sami and Meänkieli, the two Finnish-Ugric languages spoken in the north of the country.

If the Swedish largest right-wing party has its way, Swedish will become the only language spoken during lessons and breaks.

At present, numerous foreign languages are spoken at the county’s schools, which, according to the Sweden Democrats breeds exclusion and misunderstanding.

“To dare to demand that only Swedish is spoken in our schools is to take responsibility for the school, something that unfortunately has been lacking for a long time. Therefore, we are convinced that it Swedish should normally be used as language of conversation in corridors and classrooms, for faster integration into Swedish society,” the party was quoted as saying in the media.

According to the Sweden Democrats, this measure will help the newcomers adapt to Swedish society.

“Many new arrivals have come to our municipality and many of them cannot speak Swedish at all. The key to entering Swedish society is the language. To get a decent job, you should read newspapers, take part in media, then you have to speak Swedish to get a decent job,” Lars Nyström, member of the Skurup City Council and Sweden Democrats group leader, was also quoted as saying.

For historic reasons, Finnish was for centuries Sweden’s second most widely-spoken language, but was estimated to have been surpassed by Arabic at some point in 2018. This shift is largely due to an influx of asylum seekers from the Arabic-speaking countries amid the European migrant crisis. In 2015 alone, Sweden took in 163,000 asylum seekers, most of them from Arabic-speaking Muslim countries.

Other prominent languages spoken in Sweden are, according to linguist Mikael Parkvall, BCMS (Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian) with over 130,000 speakers, as well as Kurdish, Polish and Persian (with over 70,000 each).

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