Swedish libraries offer Arabic language lessons to their staff. This is to facilitate better communication within society, as the population of Arabic-speaking people increases.
Employees in Swedish libraries are learning Arabic, especially in cities like Helsingborg and Malmo, all with an aim to communicate better with the people who hail from the Middle East and North Africa.
Since the 2015 migrant crisis, when thousands of immigrants poured into European countries, Finland has hosted a large number of refugees compared to other countries. The number of Arabic speakers has now surpassed Finnish, becoming the second most widely spoken mother-tongue in Sweden.
According to Swedish Radio, the main aim of the project is “to facilitate communication between the library employees and the large number of Arabic-speaking visitors.”
Arabic language training, that is being carried out everyday for the library staff, is financially supported by Skane Count, the southernmost province of Sweden. The participation of the program is voluntary.
“The idea was born when we had invited (guests from) different libraries where people worked on diversity,” Nina Olsson told Swedish Radio.
She also added that attending courses is not mandatory, and she hopes that this attempt to address diversity will catch on and “make ripples in the water”.
Helsingborg librarian, Emelie Andersson, is enthusiastic about the project and believes she will really benefit from learning this new skill.
“Learning everyday phrases that I can use in my work makes me feel more inclusive. I work with children and youths, so I feel that it's also very good to confirm their language, their mother tongue,” Andersson said.
According to research in 2012, there were nearly 200,000 Finnish speakers and 155,000 Arabic speakers speaking their mother-tongue. Since the dramatic influx of refugees to the country in 2015, there has been an increase of spoken Arabic.
In 2015, Sweden registered at least 163,00 refugees who came from regions in the Middle East and North Africa.
Today, it is estimated that there are 400,000 Arabic speakers and 200,000 Finnish ones in the country.
There are some special Arabic TV programs on Swedish Radio and Television(SVT). A series of news articles were translated in Arabic, while Arabic newspapers have emerged across the country.
Immigrant children are also enjoying attending preschools where Arabic is the main language in some parts of the country.