Swedes to ditch their tongue to improve research dialogue

November 25, 2005

The Swedish Government wants doctoral dissertations to be written in English to make research more accessible to the international community.

Education Minister Leif Pagrotsky used a speech at the Gothenburg Book Festival, where he launched the Government's Language Policy Document, to call on researchers to write in English to establish and maintain an active scholarly debate with the international community.

Although the Government is to launch a Commission for Languages to maintain the status of Swedish and minority languages such as Sami and Finnish in Sweden, Mr Pagrotsky said there was a need for more English in the university sector.

"We don't want (Swedish to be) a barrier that keeps the rest of the world out," he said.

The Government wants most theses to be written in English in future.

Researchers working in the natural sciences already publish their findings in English, but only 50 per cent of those in the humanities and social sciences do.

"Their research needs to be available for the international community," Mr Pagrotsky said.

Ebba Witt-Brattström, professor of comparative literature at Södertörn University College, claimed in the daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter that the proposals would "affect the quality of research".

Björn Melander, professor of Swedish at Uppsala University, said: "You write in a more nuanced way in your mother- tongue. If necessary, research can be translated for an international audience."

But Mr Pagrotsky said: "The research community today is global, and Sweden needs to take a more active part, especially if we're to attract top international researchers."

With 15,000 foreign students studying at Swedish universities every year, Mr Pagrotsky said that "it is increasingly necessary that Swedish universities offer courses in English".

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