Archive Page 2

The second language – part 2

As I just wrote, a second language as primary learning language seem to be a limitation to intellectual development. A study from Eva Wiren at my own employer,  The Swedish Agency for Education, just reveals that teaching the mother tounge to immigrants, will improve their grades at school. They perform significantly better in other subjects, something that scientists have identified too.

Of course this result is expected, and different views are expressed about its significance and its reasons. The minister of education talks about the importance of learning Swedish well if you live in Sweden, which is an opinion I share. He thinks that students reading their native language are seriously motivated, hence the higher results in other subjects.

The senior lecturer Monica Axelsson says that we need an understanding that its easier to transfer knowledge from one language to another if you have good command over one language. Its just ignorant to place studies in Swedish against studies in the mother tounge, since they benifit eachother.

This subject is also interesting on the web, since so much knowledge and learning is being done in English.

 In the news:

The report, in swedish though, at my employer

The second language – a limitation

I try to write this blog in English, as you might notice, even though I’m Swedish. My confidence is fairly high that I can make myself understood in my second language. I always had the highest degrees in English at school, I travelled a lot and I lived in Australia for a while, with a girl and a couple of cats. However, I always find it hard to get my opinions, my humour and my personality through when it comes to communicating in English.


I just read an article in the Swedish magazine Skolledaren 11/2008. “Swedish a superior tool – for a Swede”. It explains the issue really well: A second language can never bee as deep and detailed as your mother tongue.


In Sweden, there’s a belief that we can communicate well in English. Not perfectly, but good enough. But generally a five year old English kid speaks it better and handles the details of her own language better. Since we can order coffee when on vacation, we gain a certain confidence. This confidence can put us in awkward situations. In the article, the Swedish academy’s Horace Engdahl, who has done research on English literature and held lectures in English for several years, tells about problems he encountered. He always loses debates against English professors, even though he has better arguments and knows the subject better. Because as a foreigner you are always in a rhetorically inferior position. He also tells about his introduction when Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize a few years ago. He was going to say “She has opened her box” for the readers. But when a translator had a look at the introduction, he explained that this phrase was a sexual metaphor. They changed it to “She has opened her casket” which is neutral. For a Swede, these details are very hard to master.


Some believe that a small language like Swedish should be replaced and that we should switch to English. But with a language in which we cant handle the complexities and cleverness, we can never make an impression or be convincing. Many Swedish scientists writes in English today, as a method to get international impact. Unfortunately the stylistic errors are plenty and they colour the content. In the end, this creates the opposite effect from what the writer intended. The academic works are not taken seriously and are met with some ridicule. Mr Engdahl tells about French students who read Swedish articles written in French on their free periods, with its unintentional obscenities that occur in the Swedish school-French.


There is a belief that a language is just a system of labels that we can change for the corresponding labels in every other language. But a language is a conception of the world, and where Swedish is a very concrete language, English is more well-presented. French on the other hand is full of conceptual definitions, constant thesis and conclusions. A Swedish way of reasoning would seem a little bit primitive to a French. A native is used to these errors in a certain extent, but the patience is limited. In Sweden there are a high number of immigrants, and they face the same kind of problems. The Swedish-Iranian writer Fateme Behros writes in Swedish. An example of this problem is when she formulated the phrase “You lie like a dog”. But in Sweden a dog is a respected animal. Consequently the phrase did not work in Swedish.


When asked about beautiful words in ones own language, magical, poethical, clever or just efficient ones which opens up emotions appear. The article has a few Swedish examples: Sommarvind – which is almost identical in English. Fjäril – which is entirely different in English – Butterfly. A direct translation of butterfy to smörfluga would be quite strange and not very attractive to a Swede. DagsmejaMiddday thaw, which is a little different too. And how do we translate the concentrated cleverness of Rävslumra – to slumber lightly and on guard? The Swede who thinks its enough to “communicate” has without understanding it, very low demands of complexity.


To be witty, funny or angry is extremely hard in your other language. We have no access to the deep emotional layers needed to be expressive. The second language becomes numb. Even in our best other language where we think we have a direct understanding, the brain works hard during a translation process. The neurological energy need makes us tired after a short while when trying to replace labels.


The article has a very thoughtful ending: English has entered Swedish education as a language of learning. It is a social experiment without analysis of the consequences. We think that we get access to the riches associated to the English language, but there is a self contempt in not valuing our own language higher. Most of us will speak a kind of limited pidgin English without knowing it. A version of English that can never compare to the language of the natives. For a Swede the Swedish language is the main route to intellectual development.


Of course all of us trying to handle the Internetized world face this problem too. Myself, I make errors all the time and hope for your understanding. My best help is the lexin dictionary and some strange confidence of what sounds good.

Knowledge for life or knowledge in change?

Here is a summary of the first chapter from the report “The future of learning” that I have co-written.

Today, learning is regarded as a fundamental condition for the development of our society.  Sometimes we forget that the humanity throughout history has been forced to aquire new knowledge to understand the world and work socially. Of course we need new and different capabilities than we needed just a few decades ago.

Lifelong learning has became a key comcept in discussions around learning. But what do we need to learn for the society of tomorrow? Both the youth- and adult educational programmes follow the pattern of traditional education in a traditional school environment. Despite large investments in ICT (information and communication technology) in school, the everyday of pedagogy is not very different from the situation 25 years ago. One reason that the educational world is lagging behind in the use of modern technology is the lack of the relevant technology.  There is an expectation that schools will develop the use of ICT without getting real means to do it. Technical development will continue regardless of the development in education. How will schools take part of this development?

In the digital society, the citizen is always connected. The technical gadgets and the web are used as tools, socializing with family and friends, but also as participation in society. It opens for learning, both individually and togeter with others in learning communities.

The learning theories that were created before ICT changed the conditions for learning is no longer enough, George Siemens claims regarding his own learning theory “Connectivism”.  Lifelong learning takes place in formal education, but in the future,  it will even more occur in experiences throughout our private life and work.  Borders between formal and informal education are dissolved and learning takes place in global networks, where knowledge are created and shared between individuals and organizations. Knowledge banks grows fast, but at the same time the knowledge gets obsolete faster.

With the access to collective knowledge, there is no longer any use to gain huge masses of knowledge beforehand, but rather to know where to find the knowledge that are needed to solve a problem or make a desicion.

For each individual it will be necessary to gain information competence, to be skilled in handling, valuing and work with information. An analytical skill and a well developed skill to estimate reasonableness and probability to gain the information that is needed for the moment. There will be expectations on the individual to cooperate and have a high presence on the web.  As a citizen of the future knowledge society one will use a collaborative way of working.  It brings possibilities to work and learn in social networks, where members can be spread over the world.

New job

On 1 october will start working at the Swedish National Agency for Education. Privately this will be a major change, since I have been walking for seven minutes to get to work for some years, but now I will take a train for 1,5 hours to get there. It is located in central Stockholm. Professionally there will be some changes too. New colleagues, new tasks, new The original idea was to continue the core activity that I have been involved in during my years at CFL (Swedish agency for flexible learning). My first misson will be to create a new principal education. Of cource I will try to find ways to continue my inspirational tours of the swedish educational system.

Report: The future of learning

Here is the report The future of learning. Only in swedish unfortunately, I will write excerpts here in the blog in english soon.


The future of learning

I participated in a group of three members during the spring and summer. We explored the trends of learning and tried to come up with ideas for the future. Interviews and printed sources, such as the Horizon report were used. Six main areas were identified and we publish our report soon, only in swedish though.

The six areas are the following:
– Knowledge for life or changing knowledge
– Competence, technical access and digital gap
– The social web
– Individualised learning
– Motivation and work tools
– The need of a national initiative

I will explain the different areas in coming posts on my blog.

Grassroots video part 2

I have tried some ideas on how video sites like Youtube can be a resource in learning. I can see four different ways of using it, where one is a little bit experimental:

1. As a recource where huge amounts of videos are freely avalilable to watch.

2. Publishing your own clips of course, which can be useful for bort teachers and students.

3. Interacting socially on the video sites, with comments and with video diaries.

4. And lastly, my own little experiment where Youtube is a resource for raw material to create my own clips from. This is not widely used yet, but let me explain how to do it:

Step 1: Download the preferred Youtube videos from this site:
Step 2: Convert the clips from flv format to Avi using this program:
Step 3: Edit the clips in your preferred video editor, like Adobe Premiere or Windows Movie Maker.
Step 4: Export the finished clip. Now you have created your own video from a great source of raw material. If you wish, you can publish it on Youtube. As you surely understand, this can create some copyrighting problems. So be aware of what you are doing.

About this blog

Starting from a project about foreseeing the future of learning, this blog is an output of thoughts, ideas, comments and research. I am trying to be practical too, providning examples of the different aspects of the subject. My name is Pelle Filipsson and I work as a web pedagog.