If you’ve been paying attention to the news these days, you probably know that people all over the world are on the move. Some are leaving their homes for economic reasons, and some are leaving because of war or other disasters that make living in lands they come from almost impossible. With migrants and refugees entering Europe in record numbers recently, and the bulk of them trying to get to Germany or Sweden (wealthy countries with liberal migration policies, although that is now in flux), language, global politics, and a host of other issues have come to the forefront. Learning Swedish — along with Swedish translation needs and the politics of immigration — gives us a glimpse of how a particular people define their national identity, what it means to be European in the larger sense, and how new arrivals are managing.
Sweden, a homogeneous and very democratic society, has often been labeled as one of the most generous countries on the planet. Because of this, and its history of welcoming asylum seekers and refugees of all types (like it did with people from Bosnia, Kosovo and Somalia in the past), Sweden is an extremely attractive destination for this new wave of refugees (from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere), as well as others seeking a better life outside their homeland. And while most Swedes are proud of their country’s bighearted instincts, some now worry that the influx of migrants (numbers are going up in Sweden, while going down in many other EU countries), combined with integration difficulties, is a recipe for conflict — or at the very least an economic burden for a country with less than 10 million inhabitants.
Swedish Translation and Learning a New Language
Most of the new arrivals don’t speak Swedish, as it’s not widely spoken outside of Sweden. If they do speak a Western tongue, it’s probably English (or French). This means Swedish translation services and legal translation services, along with interpretation services, are required to help process and sort through the needs of tens of thousands of people, all with varying educational backgrounds and reasons for showing up in Sweden in the first place.
While the Swedish Government recognizes its special place in the world, helping people fleeing war-torn countries, the governmental also seems to be admitting now that there’s a limit to how many the country can take per year. Up to 80,000 people who don’t meet the official requirements of asylum seeker will likely be expelled (no small task) soon. Sweden’s once warm and embracing stance on refugees has cooled off some, due to political, economic, security and social concerns.
Role of English in Sweden
For those who do get to stay, Swedish translation and interpreting services will play a big part in their collective futures. English is widely spoken in Sweden, and at a high level, which can help immigrants and asylum seekers who already speak some English survive, and perhaps eventually thrive. But of course Swedish (a difficult language to learn) is the national language, and for immigrants looking for work, or trying to build a new life, Swedish lessons are vital for success. Simply relying on Swedish translations or English skills won’t be enough in the long run. English-Swedish dictionaries online and offline are put to good use. And of course, Swedish to English translations are significantly helping immigrants meanwhile.
Swedish language classes (Swedish For Immigrants, or SFI), tailored to all kinds of different people, some of whom were highly educated doctors or engineers in their homeland, or others who were perhaps not very literate farmers, will help those who want to make Sweden their home flourish in the years to come. It will be a challenge, but if Sweden works hard at integration, like it did with Bosnians in the past, and after the initial anxieties and clash of cultures subside, Swedes can once again take pride in their long history of welcoming those in need.
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