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Linguistic Repercussions of Global Europe: the Swedes choose English over Swedish

BBC Scotland again focused our attention on the issue of European native languages affected by the thickly intermingled multilingual environment and the ever-expanding influence of the English language.

Ph. Linn
31 December, 2009

Outside the rhetorics of the recent globalization-versus-cultural-identity debate, the ultimate diagnosis as to whether English becoming international and biting off of the natural habitat of other langs is a negative process might be adjudged by the native speakers of these languages themselves – who don’t seem to mind being bi- or multilingual, if it suits their convenience. At the end of the day, convenience and good reason has always underlain evolution.

The improvised journalistic “research” carried by Eòrpa (BBC Two Scotland) centered on Sweden, where at the beginning of July, a law had been passed through the Swedish Parliament, designed to protect languages, especially Swedish, which was officially recognized for the first time. Finnish, all Sami dialects, Torne Valley Finnish, Romani, and Yiddish were also given status as national minority languages.

Hillo Norstrum of Nätverket Språkförsvaret (the Language Defence Network) is aware of the changing status attached to Swedish as affected by English. "Today Sweden is on its way to replace Swedish with English. We have the situation where we replace fully functional Swedish words and expressions with their English equivalent and that is totally wrong."

One of respondents to the BBC quest was Samson, a Swedish singer, who chose to sing in English, over his native tongue. Born to a Swedish father, a Columbian mother - Samson is like the average Swede - multi-cultural and multi-lingual. His decision to choose English over Swedish is part of a wider debate on the prevalence of English in Swedish society.

He said: "It was a very deliberate decision. We had two languages at home; my mother spoke Spanish with everyone and my father spoke Swedish with everyone. When we discussed something important or argued they spoke in English."

But Samson denied that the protection of the language is vital in keeping Swedish cultural traditions. "I do not believe in some sort of fascist regime where you protect the Swedish and exclude international cultures, I do not think that you are supposed to only be allowed to sing in Swedish about Karl-Åke that dances on some bridge somewhere in the archipelago.

"The free flow of languages is very important and it is so easy to see how much we gained by that in Sweden. We gained very much by taking other cultures to our heart instead of trying to shut them out."

For the full original text of the BBC article please see:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/8338525.stm


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