Sweden criticised for poor minority-language education

2:48 min

Most pupils in Sweden who have the right to take classes in any of the country's five official minority languages only get an hour of lessons or less per week, according to a survey by Swedish Radio's Finnish Service, Sisuradio, and that falls short of the experts' recommendations.

Sweden's official minority languages are Finnish, Sami, Romani, Yiddish and Meänkieli, also known as Tornedal Finnish.

Leonardo Wisniewski, who takes Romani lessons once per week, tells Swedish Radio: "I want to teach my children the language I speak and then they should teach their own children. Our language is unique. There aren't that many people who can speak it. Many Roma people have lost it. I want our language to survive in my family."

Wisniewski lives in Angered, outside Gothenburg, and Romani is his mother tongue. He receives 80 minutes of Romani lessons per week, which is above the average. Still, he thinks it is insufficient.

Sweden has committed to protect its minority languages in international treaties. According to Stockholm University professor, Jarmo Lainio, one hour of class per week is insufficient for that purpose. Lainio is one of the Council of Europe's minority-language experts.

"The Council of Europe recommends member states to have a minimum level for this kind of education, which is four to five hours, and Sweden falls really short of that. And three to four hours would be a minimum that could be accepted as passable," Lainio tells Swedish Radio.

The Council of Europe has criticized Sweden eight times in the last 15 years for the poor attention minority languages receive in Swedish schools.

Last summer, school regulation in Sweden changed and now all pupils from the national minorities have the right to receive language lessons at school even if they or their parents do not speak the minority language. However, Lainio says that Sweden is still lagging behind most European countries.

"In general, we have to say that Sweden is one of Europe's stragglers. There are many other countries with wider support even for languages that are not spoken by that many people," says Lainio.

Leonardo speaks Romani at home with his family, but still thinks that the 80 weekly minutes he gets at school are not enough. "I'd like to have more classes. It's only once per week. And it's after school and then I'm tired and sometimes want to sleep during class," he says.

Swedish Radio's survey was sent to all the municipalities in Sweden and 89 percent replied.