Researchers practise Swedish at lunchtime

Published Mar 07, 2017

One hour a week when you only get to speak Swedish. That is the purpose of KTH's new language café for employees who do not have Swedish as their mother tongue.
“This is a good chance for me to really focus on Swedish – I need more of these opportunities,” says Jamie Rinder, one of the participants.

Jamie Rinder, an English teacher at the Unit for Language and Communication, is one of a dozen KTH employees who meet every Thursday in the teachers' lounge at the library to practise their Swedish.

Over a lunchtime sandwich the participants discuss the contents of a current Swedish debate article, along with Swedish teacher Eva Löfstedt-Panova.

The group consists mainly of Ph.D. students and researchers. They come from countries such as Germany, China, Russia, Syria and the UK, and have lived in Sweden from anywhere from four months to seven years. All have mastered the basics of the language, but for most of them the language café is the only time when they only hear and speak Swedish.

“A lot of the Ph.D. students at the departments are native speakers of a language other than Swedish, so most of them speak in English or their own language, both at work and in their everyday lives,” says Rebecca Hincks, Head of KTH's Unit for Language and Communication, the person who started the language café for KTH employees last autumn.

Jamie Rinder came to Sweden six years ago and has just become a Swedish citizen.

“I signed up for the language café when I became a citizen because I do not speak enough Swedish in my everyday life. Most of my students do not think I can even speak Swedish,” he says.

Before each meeting, the participants read an article on a recent, mostly research-related subject. When we visit they are discussing an opinion piece in Dagens Nyheter, which has been written by three Uppsala University researchers who have filed a notice of complaint to the Chancellor of Justice about the government’s plans to limit the freedom of research.

The lunch meeting begins with a general discussion of the text, where the participants tell the group which words they found difficult. Eva Löfstedt-Panova explains concepts such as ‘fact-resistant’, ‘contempt for experts’ contempt" and ‘restricted’, and there is a discussion about whether the Chancellor of Justice is a political institution or not.

The conversation then continues in small groups, so that everyone has a chance to be heard. Despite the complex subject, the discussions take place completely in Swedish.

“Other courses that I been on have focused primarily on writing, but this is a good opportunity for me to practice speaking,” says Yalin Huanga Ph.D. student in electrical engineering, who comes from China.

The language café, funded by Erasmus Plus, is aimed at employees who have already passed a couple of levels of KTH’s Swedish courses. At least B1-level Swedish is required to take part in the discussion which is only in Swedish, says Eva-Löfstedt Panova.

Besides the opportunity to improve their language skills and meet colleagues from other institutions, Rebecca Hincks hopes that those taking part will get into the habit of following the Swedish news media, and becoming more familiar with the talking points in Swedish society.

“It is also part of the role of researchers at KTH to be involved in public debate, so it’s good that they are studying these types of debate articles,” she says.

Text: Kristin Djerf

Facts about KTH’s Swedish language training

  • KTH offers its employees five levels of Swedish-language training.
  • The language caféis part of KTH’s internationalisation at home initiative, and is a continuation of language training for employees who have already completed the courses A1, A2 and B1, at KTH or elsewhere. The language café meets every Thursday at noon, from 12 noon till 1pm in the teachers' lounge in the main library.
  • In addition, in January, started a second pilot round of an eight-week intensive Swedish coursewhich is jointly arranged by KTH Relocation and KTH Career and Skills Development. This includes student having their own ‘study buddy’ who they meet once a week.
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