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Review of  Managing Multilingualism in a European Nation-State

Reviewer: Suzanne K Hilgendorf
Book Title: Managing Multilingualism in a European Nation-State
Book Author: Sally Boyd Leena Huss
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 13.1704

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Boyd, Sally, and Leena Huss, ed. (2001) Managing Multilingualism in a
European Nation-State: Challenges for Sweden. Multilingual Matters, 86pp,
hardback ISBN 1-85359-558-6, GBP 26.00.

Suzanne K. Hilgendorf, Wayne State University


In the last 10 years, increasing scholarly attention has focused on the
linguistic impact of three major social developments in Europe: a) the
establishment of the supranational polity of the European Union (EU), b)
substantial immigration to numerous nation states since World War II, and
c) the increasing use of English as an international lingua franca (e.g.
Wright, 2000; Cenoz and Jessner, 2000; Deneire and Goethals, 1997; Ammon,

This volume considers these issues for the case of Sweden, which in many
ways is representative for the situations in other European nation states.
The volume consists of five papers covering a range of perspectives on
multilingualism: current language policies and multilingual issues, the
use of Swedish and English within the context of the EU, the use of
minority and majority languages in the country's school system, the role
of Swedish vis-�-vis the growing spread of English, and the issue of
language rights within the country. The volume should be of interest to
scholars specializing in any of a number of areas, including Swedish
sociolinguistics, multilingualism in Europe, the international spread of
English, linguistic human rights, and minority language use.

The Introduction by the editors Sally Boyd and Leena Huss provides
background information on language policies and current multilingual
issues of concern. Three primary factors combine to create what in the
last decade has become a more complex sociolinguistic situation. First,
although Sweden has a history of dealing with a small number of regional
minority languages, immigration since World War II has introduced
additional and very diverse linguistic populations, consequently creating
a richer and more complex multilingual situation raising new policy
concerns. The second factor is Sweden's acceptance to the EU in 1995,
which introduced new supranational language policies protecting minority
languages while bringing up concerns about the functional range of the
national language, particularly vis-�-vis the use of English as a lingua
franca. Related to this last point, the third factor is the impact of
English in general in light of globalization and the significant role of
the USA internationally.

Boyd and Huss, both immigrants who have raised families in the country for
more than 25 years, highlight their unique perspectives on the situation
as both outsiders and insiders. They describe the status of their
respective native languages, English and Finnish, and outline the
historical development of the nation's language policies, which by 2000
had expanded to recognize five national minority languages: Finnish,
Me�nkieli, Romani, Saami, and Yiddish. They further provide an overview
of the debate on the role of English, which following European integration
increasingly is perceived as a threat for Swedish. Government initiatives
to promote Swedish vis-�- vis English are outlined, as are the
shortcomings of such policies in their failure to include minority

The paper ''Swedish, English and the European Union'' by Bjorn Melander
examines the linguistic Englishization of Swedish on a national and
supranational level. Melander assesses three specific manifestations of
this influence: the phenomenon of English loanwords, the impact of English
as a primary source language for translations, and the spread of English
to a growing number of domains of use. Whereas in Sweden, as in other
countries, English frequently is perceived as a threat to native languages
in terms of causing a language shift, Melander demonstrates that for
Swedish these fears generally are exaggerated. In reviewing studies
examining English loanwords, Melander outlines the consistently low
frequencies of occurrence and minimal impact on grammatical structure. The
analysis of the dominance of English as a source language for translations
illustrates how this trend emerged already in the 19th century and has
resulted in the introduction of new genres as well as a shift in some
textual patterns. The majority of the chapter examines the spread of
English to a growing number of domains, and how the natural sciences offer
the clearest example of a language shift. To address the general
perception of EU membership as facilitating Swedish domain loss, Melander
presents the results of a survey (Melander 2000) of language use among
various groups of individuals working in EU settings: a) Swedish members
of the European Parliament, b) members of the Economic and Social
Committee, and the Committee of the Regions, and c) government civil
servants and administrators dealing with EU matters.

The findings show language use varying according to group status and
formality of situation. Given these results, Melander argues that while a
wide-ranging linguistic shift in fact is not taking place, the national
language should be promoted to a greater degree.

In ''The Protection and Rejection of Minority and Majority Languages in the
Swedish School System'', Jarmo Lainio analyzes Sweden's progressive
educational policy for speakers of immigrant languages and the reasons for
its failed implementation. This is contrasted with the situation for
English, which in spite of a lack of explicit policy support increasingly
is becoming a de facto second language. Lainio first outlines the
linguistic diversity in the public schools with statistics for the ten
largest mother tongues spoken, which show Arabic with the greatest number
of native speakers. Officially, educational policy espouses pluralism and
that the school system should assist ''children of immigrants to achieve
active bilingualism by providing home language instruction'' (p. 34).
Government statistics are provided showing that only about half of the
students officially entitled to mother tongue instruction (MTI) in fact
receive such. A similar situation is presented for the support of teaching
Swedish as a second language. Lainio examines this gulf between theory and
practice with the example of Finnish as a MT. He outlines the reasons for
the successful implementation of multilingual policies from the late 1960s
through ca. 1983, as well as the factors behind their waning support from
1984 to 1990. In contrast to this situation for immigrant and regional
minority languages, Lainio highlights how English has flourished as a
foreign language, becoming the country's unofficial second language. He
outlines the rising importance of English in the school system from 1946
to 1994, and the continuing efforts to introduce the language earlier in
the curriculum and increasingly as a medium of instruction (MOI). In
conclusion, Lainio argues that policy implementation be reconsidered to
promote MTI once more and to counter the homogenizing effects of Swedish
and English.

Britt-Louise Gunnarsson discusses ''Swedish Tomorrow - A Product of the
Linguistic Dominance of English?'', which examines the general impact of
the powerful international lingua franca within the small Scandinavian
speech community. In contrast to the large number of minority and
immigrant languages spoken within the country, English does not have a
substantial L1 speech community, yet continues to spread and successfully
establish itself as an additional language. It is widely used by both
multinational and domestic businesses, in the sciences, in advertising,
and information technology. The first part of the paper reviews general
research on the relationship between culture and L1 texts, demonstrating
with a variety of European and Asian languages how textual patterns vary
according to the native language of the writer. Special consideration is
given to studies examining Swedish texts, with Gunnarsson discussing in
detail one project comparing texts written in Sweden, Germany, and Britain
in various communities (banks, engineering firms, university medicine
departments, university history departments). She also presents findings
from an on-going study of Electrolux, an international Swedish-based firm
that uses English for corporate communication. This is followed by a
discussion of contrastive studies of texts and writing in foreign
languages, which show that L1 text patterns are transferred to foreign
language texts, in this case written in English. Gunnarsson concludes her
paper with a discussion of the impact of English on Swedish and native
texts, warning of domain loss and genre death. At the same time she
recognizes the inevitability of contact and influence, and urges the
appropriation of foreign innovations and their adaptation to the Swedish
context in order to maintain the expression of Swedish identity.

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas and Robert Phillipson contribute the final paper to
the volume, ''The World Came to Sweden - But Did Language Rights?'', which
addresses a number of myths regarding linguistic human rights in general
and as relate to Sweden. While the illusion of a monolingual, monocultural
Sweden has faded in the last decades in the face of increasing
immigration, new myths have arisen purporting a guarantee of linguistic
human rights that in reality has yet to be realized. Among these myths are
that of:
a) global English as a great equalizer,
b) an equality among all official languages of the EU,
c) the protection of linguistic human rights in international charters and
conventions, and
d) Sweden as being exemplary in upholding such rights.

Skutnabb-Kangas and Phillipson discuss each of these myths, providing
detailed arguments on how they fall short of their proposed aims. While
global English does provide unique opportunities for many individuals
throughout the world, Skutnabb-Kangas and Phillipson argue that it does
not serve all equally well. The global spread of English has occurred at
the expense of many local languages, and linguistic hierarchies exist
affording distinct advantages based on degree of proficiency (L1, L2,
foreign language), especially with respect to those who do not know the
lingua franca. The discussion of ''Myths about the Equality of all European
Union (Official) Languages'' in fact focuses instead on the marginalization
of language policy within the EU. The authors note the need for further
research on and greater importance given to language issues within the
supranational polity, especially considering the diversity among
individual national policies. Myths about linguistic human rights being
well protected are exposed with an analysis of international charters and
conventions. Although generally mentioned in the preface of such
documents, language rights often are not addressed in the binding clauses
(e.g. UN Universal Declaration; European Convention on Human Rights and
Fundamental Freedoms). In other instances, weak wording allows governments
to avoid policy implementation (e.g. in the UN Minorities Declaration).
Finally, Skutnabb-Kangas and Phillipson challenge the exemplary status of
Sweden in upholding human rights by outlining the shortcomings in
implementing educational language policies aimed at providing MTI.


This volume is an important contribution to research on current
sociolinguistic issues in Europe. Whereas earlier studies have largely
been European-wide in focus (Ammon, 1994; Deneire and Goethals, 1997;
Cenoz and Jessner, 2000; Wright, 2000), this volume extends this area of
research by offering an in-depth profile of the situation in a single
nation state. It is cohesive and well-edited in its treatment of a broad
range of topics regarding multilingualism: regional minority, immigrant,
and national language use; English as a lingua franca; language use on a
regional, national, and supranational level; etc. With Scandinavian-based
contributors including native Swedes, fellow Scandinavians, and immigrants
to the region, the volume provides diverse perspectives on the linguistic
situation in Sweden. Also, each article draws on numerous bibliographic
references in Swedish and/or other Scandinavian languages, thus
introducing those findings to a broader, English-reading audience

One minor shortcoming, which is prevalent in general in this area of
research, is a tendency to approach the issues from a monolingual
perspective, i.e. considering language contact and spread in terms of an
either-or dichotomy, rather than exploring the possibilities for and
advantages of greater individual multilingualism. While it is true that
monolingual attitudes traditionally prevail throughout much of the West,
globalization, increasing immigration, and supranational affiliations are
creating situations where individual multilingualism is more and more
necessary. The social reality is such that English is a de facto second
language, as Gunnarsson and Lainio acknowledge in their articles. This is
not just the case in Sweden or Scandinavia, but also largely throughout
Europe if not much of the world. Likewise, the reality of the EU is that
it is a multilingual state, and Europeans will have to become proficient
in more than one language if there is to be direct communication. L1
language use certainly should be promoted and institutionally supported.
At the same time, the reasons for resistance to individual multilingualism
should be explored.


Ammon, Ulrich, guest ed. (1994) Sociolinguistica. International Yearbook
of European Sociolinguistics. Special Issue on English Only? In Europe. 8.

Cenoz, Jasone, and Ulrike Jessner, eds. (2000) English in Europe: The
Acquisition of a Third Language. Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 19.
Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.

Deneire, Marc G., and Micha�l Goethals, guest eds. (1997) World Englishes:
Special Issue on English in Europe. 16.1: 1-179.

Wright, Sue (2000) Community and Communication: The Role of Language in
Nation State Building and European Integration. Multilingual Matters 114.
Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.

Suzanne K. Hilgendorf holds a PhD in German Linguistics from the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She currently is an assistant
professor in the Department of German & Slavic Studies at Wayne State
University in Detroit, Michigan, where she is a faculty member for the
interdisciplinary M. A. in Language Learning and coordinates the basic
language program. Her primary research interests are in sociolinguistics,
with an emphasis on non-native varieties of English and in particular the
use of English in Germany. Her other research interests include second
language acquisition and foreign language pedagogy.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 1853595586
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 82
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