The Dynamics of Foreign Language Values in Sweden: A Social History

  • Parvin Gheitasi Dalarna University, Sweden
  • Eva Lindgren Department of Language Studies, Umeå University, Sweden
  • Janet Enever Professor emerita, Umeå University, Sweden
Keywords: dynamic system, foreign language learning, foreign language values


This paper gives an account of the history of foreign language values in Sweden from the seventeenth century to the present. The paper is informed by sociocultural standpoints on language and language learning according to which language is a dynamic tool that is appropriated by individuals to achieve particular purposes, and that dialogically creates and renews our social world(s).  Since the sixteenth century, three languages (German, French and English) have been taught in Sweden as foreign languages during particular eras. In this paper, we explore how language value can be understood as a system that evolves over time as a result of triggers such as power, trade and personal benefits. The impact of these variables on Swedish society’s efforts to invest in learning a particular language during specific eras is critically examined from the perspectives of nested systems.


Download data is not yet available.


Alm, M. (2003). America and the future of Sweden: Americanization as controlled modernization. American Studies in Scandinavia, 35(2), 64–71.

Baicchi, A. (2015). Construction learning as a complex adaptive system. Psycholinguistic evidence from L2 learners of English. Springer.

Bottenburg, M. (2001). Global games. University of Illinois Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1991). Language and symbolic power (J. B. Thompson, ed.; G. Raymond & M. Adamson, trans.). Polity Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1977). Cultural reproduction and social reproduction. In J. Karabel & A. H. Halsey (Eds.), Power and ideology in education (pp. 487–511). Oxford University Press.

Breton, A., 2000, The cultural yield on languages and linguistic assimilation. In A. Breton (Ed.), Exploring the economics of language. Official Languages Support Program, Canadian Heritage.

Cabau, B. (2014). Minority language education policy and planning in Sweden. Current Issues in Language Planning, 15(4), 409–425.

Cabau-Lampa, B. (2005). Foreign language education in Sweden from a historical perspective: Status, role and organization. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 37(1), 91–111.

Cabau-Lampa, B. (1999). Decisive factors for language teaching in Sweden. Educational Studies, 25(2), 175–186.

Church, J., & King, I. (1993). Bilingualism and network externalities. The Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue Canadienne D'Economique, 26(2), 337–345.

Crowley, T., & Bowern, C. (2010). An introduction to historical linguistics. Oxford University Press.

Danan, M. (1991). Dubbing as an expression of nationalism. Meta, 36(4), 606–614.

Darvin, R. & Norton, B. (2015). Identity and a model of investment in applied linguistics. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 35, 36–56.

De Swaan, A. (2001). Words of the world: The global language system. Polity Press.

Elman, J. L. (1995). Language as a dynamic system. In R. F. Port, & T. van Gelder (Eds.), Mind as motion: Explorations in the dynamics of cognition (195–223). MIT Press.

Ellis, N. (2008). The dynamics of second language emergence: Cycles of language use, language change, and language acquisition. Modern Language Journal, 92(2), 232–249.

Esping-Andersen, G. (1985). Politics against markets: The social democratic road to power. Princeton University Press.

ESLC, SurveyLang. (2012). First European survey on language competences: Final report. European Commission.

European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice. (2017). Key data on teaching languages at school in Europe. Publications Office of the European Union.

European Commission. (2012). Europeans and their languages. Special Eurobarometer 386.

Ginsburgh, V., Melitz, J., & Toubal, F. (2017). Foreign language learning and trade. Review of International Economics, 25(2), 320–361.

Grin, F. (2002). Using language economics and education economics in language education policy. Report to Language Policy Division. Council of Europe

Glück, H. (2014). The history of German as a foreign language in Europe. Language and History, 57(1), 44–58.

Hornberger, N. H., & Outakoski, H. (2015). Sámi time, space and place: Exploring teachers’ metapragmatic statements on Sámi language use, teaching and revitalization in Sápmi. Confero: Essays On Education, Philosophy And Politics, 3(1), 1–46.

Jenkins, J. (2015). Repositioning English and multilingualism in English as a lingua franca. Englishes in Practice, 2(3), 49–85.

Larsen–Freeman, D. (2012). Complex, dynamic systems: A new transdisciplinary theme for applied linguistics? Language Teaching, 45(2), 202– 214.

Larsen-Freeman, D., & Cameron, L. (2008). Complex systems and applied linguistics. Oxford Applied Linguistics. Oxford University Press.

Letica Krevelj, S., & Medved Krajnovic, M. (2015). Early EFL development from a dynamic systems perspective. In J. Mihaljevic, & M. Medved Krajnovic (Eds.), Early learning and teaching of English. (pp. 191–213). Multilingual Matters.

Lindgren, E., Sullivan K. P. H., Outakoski, H., & Westum, A. (2016). Researching literacy development in the globalised north: Studying tri-lingual children’s English writing in Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish Sápmi. In D. Cole, & C. Woodrow (Eds.), Super dimensions in globalisation and education. Cultural studies and transdisciplinarity in education (vol 5). Springer.

Milani, T. M. (2007). Debating Swedish – language politics and ideology in contemporary Sweden. (Doctoral dissertation). Centre for Research on Bilingualism, Stockholm University.

Norton, B. (2000). Identity and language learning: Gender, ethnicity and educational change. Pearson Education, Longman.

Norton, B., & Toohey, K. (2011). Identity, language learning, and social change. Language Teaching, 44(4), 412– 446.

Oakes, L. (2001). Language and national identity: Comparing France and Sweden. John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Oakes, L. (2005). From internationalisation to globalisation: Language and the nationalist revival in Sweden. Language Problems & Language Planning, 29(2), 151–176.

Oestreicher, C. (2007). A history of chaos theory. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience 9(3), 279–289.

Olsson, B. (2005). Historical and sociocultural preconditions of language in Scandinavia from the 16th to the end of the 18th century. In O. Bandle, K. Braunmüller, L. Elmevik, & G. Widmark (Eds.), The Nordic languages: An international handbook of the history of the North Germanic languages (Vol. 2, pp. 1238–1243). De Gruyter.

Oredsson, S. (2000). Utländsk påverkan. Sverige mellan tyskt och amerikanskt [Foreign influence. Sweden between the German and the American]. In S. Båge, O. Karlsson, & P. Aléx (Eds.), Sverige under 1900-talet [Sweden during the 20th century] (pp. 100–105). Bra böcker [Good Books].

O'Regan, J. P. (2014). English as a lingua franca: An immanent critique. Applied Linguistics, 35(5), 533–552.

Phillipson, R., (Ed.) (2000). Rights to language: Equity, power, and education. Celebrating the 60th birthday of Tove Skutnabb-Kangas. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Ricento, T. (2015). Language policy and political economy: English in a global context. Oxford University Press.

Schröder, K. (2018). Eight hundred years of modern language learning and teaching in the German-speaking countries of central Europe: A social history. The Language Learning Journal, 46(1), 28–39.

Scott, F. D. (1988). Sweden, the nation’s history. Southern Illinois University Press.

Seidlhofer, B. (2010). Lingua franca English: The European context. A. Kirkpatrick (Ed.). The Routledge handbook of world Englishes (pp. 355–371). Routledge.

Språkrådet. (2012). Det finns flera modersmål i Sverige [There are several mother tongues in Sweden]. Språkrådet [Language Council].

Walsh, J. (2006). Language and socio-economic development: Towards a theoretical framework. Language Problems & Language Planning, 30(2), 127–148.

Wolff, C. (2005). The Swedish aristocracy and the French enlightenment circa 1740–1780. Scandinavian Journal of History, 30(3-4), 259–270.

Wright, J. (2006). The regionalist movement in France 1890-1914: Jean Charles-Brun and French political thought. Oxford University Press.