language politics

Swedish Defenders Lose "Airport" Fight

It is not illegal to name airports the English ”airport” instead of the Swedish ”flygplats,” the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman in Stockholm has announced. The English usage had been reported by pro-Swedish language group Språkförsvaret on the grounds that it breaks Sweden’s language law, which stipulates that Swedish should be used in all societal functions.

But the Ombudsman maintains that the law primarily applies to main governmental authorities, not fringe agencies.

Yet Språkförsvaret could count a victory: as part of its airport decision, the Office criticized the government’s email addresses for only being available in English.

“The email addresses were a gratifying exception. Otherwise, we’ve had it confirmed that the language law’s reach is limited,” Språkförsvaret spokesman Per-Åke Lindblom told news agency TT.

English can be heard and seen quite often here in Sweden. Stockholm is promoting itself as “The Capital of Scandinavia,” and southern city Kristianstad’s slogan is “Spirit of Foods.” The fact that all of the Swedish Civil Aviation Administration airports are called exactly that—airports—is perhaps not surprising in this context.

But organization Språkförsvaret, literally “Language Defense,” is strongly critical of English’s growing role in Swedish society, and has brought a number of such cases to the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s attention.

After its airport setback, Lindblom now says it will submit a report about some universities’ practice of requiring that job applications be submitted in English.

“If it turns out that the language law is a paper tiger, we are going to demand improvements.”

That will then be a new case for the Parliamentary Ombudsman situated in Stockholm, “The Capital of Scandinavia.”