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Legal framework

For the first time in the history of Sweden, the Swedish Parliament decided in December 2005 on a language policy for Sweden, with four comprehensive goals: 
  • Swedish is the main language in Sweden
  • Swedish should be a ‘complete’ language, i.e. it should be possible to use it in all areas of society
  • The language of public authorities should be correct, simple and understandable
  • Everyone has a right to language: to learn Swedish, to learn foreign languages, and to use one's mother tongue or a minority language

In May 2009 the Swedish Parliament decided on a language law to come into force on 1 July 2009. This law is based on the language-law policy mentioned above. Briefly, the law states:

  • Swedish is the main language in Sweden
  • Finnish, Meänkieli, Romani chib, Sami, and Yiddish are the national minority languages of Sweden. They must be protected and promoted
  • The Swedish Sign Language must be protected and promoted
  • Persons having another mother tongue than these above mentioned shall be given the opportunity to develop and use their mother tongue
  • The language of public authorities should be correct, simple and understandable
  • Swedish is the official language of Sweden internationally

    The law is a basic law about the status of the languages spoken in
    Sweden. It states the obligations of the community towards the languages. The law does not contain any penalties for infraction.



Possible areas of contention with the European Commission, particularly over national texts which ensure that consumers have access to information in their own language

There are currently  no areas of contention with the European Commission.



 Institutional body with responsibility for developing, implementing and controlling linguistic legislation

The Language Council of Sweden has the task of reporting on how the Language Law is implemented. The County Administrative Board in Stockholm County and the Sami Parliament are responsible for coordination and follow-up of the law on national minorities and minority languages.



Legal provisions concerning the linguistic integration of migrants and public training facilities available to them

Immigrants have the right to free Swedish language lessons. These lessons are organised locally, by the local authorities, in accordance with a national programme Svenska för invandrare (SFI) (literally ‘Swedish for Immigrants’), run by the Ministry for Integration and monitored by the National Agency for Education.
Children whose native language is not Swedish are taught Swedish as a second language until they can participate in the regular classes in Swedish schools. They also have the right to obtain education in their own mother tongue.





Principal legal provisions in force concerning the use of regional or minority languages

There are five national minorities in Sweden: Sami, Sweden-Finns, Tornedalians, Roma and Jews, and five national minority languages: Sami, Finnish, Meänkieli (the language of Tornedalians), Romani chib and Yiddish.

The two conventions of the Council of Europe - the Framework Convention for the Protection of Minority Nationals and the European Charter on Regional and Minority Languages - were both ratified by Sweden in 2000. The conventions were incorporated into Swedish law in January 2010, when the law on national minorities and minority languages came into force.

One of the main objectives of minority policy is to provide support for historical minority languages in order to keep them alive. Three of the national minority languages – Sami, Finnish and Meänkieli – are historically associated with certain geographical areas, mostly in the northern part of Sweden. For this reason these languages are covered by special regional measures. The law on national minorities and minority languages entitles individual citizens to use Sami, Finnish and Meänkieli in transactions with administrative authorities and courts of law in these geographical areas – known as administrative areas. The legislation requires municipalities in the administrative areas to offer parents the option of placing their children in preschools where some or all of the activities are conducted in the minority language. The same applies to care services for the elderly.

Apart from these national minority languages there are about 200 languages spoken by immigrants. The Swedish language law also includes these languages. Immigrants’ right to receive lessons in Swedish is regulated, as is the right of children of immigrants to receive lessons in and about their mother tongue.



Financial support mechanisms aimed at encouraging the use of national and regional or minority languages

The following organisations, entirely supported by public funds, are charged with promoting and taking care of the languages in Sweden.

The Language Council of Sweden, which is a department of the public agency Institutet för spr?k och folkminnen (Institute of Languages and Folklore), has as its mission the promotion and care of the Swedish language as the main language of Sweden, and the Swedish Institute promotes interest in Swedish both in Sweden and abroad.

Two public agencies are charged with the promotion and care of the national minority languages: The Language Council of Sweden and The Sami Parliament. There is also a governmental Delegation for Roma Issues. In Stockholm there is a Multicultural Centre, which is a forum for research and for exchanging knowledge and experiences on migration as well as social and cultural diversity, and an Institute of multilingual research. In addition it is possible to seek subsidies for projects aimed at promoting minority languages and culture, especially from the Swedish Arts Council, e.g. for research studies, cultural events such as publishing and translating books from and to minority languages, theatre, music, dance.

The Swedish Centre for Terminology (Terminologicentrum TNC) is a private organisation, which is 65% funded from public resources and 35% by private means. This centre offers terminological services and support to public authorities, organisations, and other enterprises. Recently the centre has opened a national term bank as a free public service on the Internet.

The Swedish Academy is an independent institution, whose recommendations are non-binding, even though their Swedish dictionary is an undisputed point of reference when it comes to spelling and inflection.










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