Evaluating multicultural Sweden’s support for balanced bilingualism among children of immigrants: Best in Europe or just best on paper?
Memet Aktürk-Drake, Centre for Research on Bilingualism, Stockholm University
Several international surveys show that Sweden has had the most inclusive integration context in Europe for immigrants since the mid-1970s. One of the original goals of Sweden’s multicultural language policies was balanced bilingualism. I will offer a critical evaluation of Sweden’s policies by drawing on data on adult second-generation Turks in Stockholm from the project The Integration of the European Second Generation and by comparing Stockholm with Rotterdam and Berlin. The focus will be on self-reported speaking and writing skills in Turkish and the respective second languages. The results show that only a minority of the second-generation Turks in Stockholm reported balanced skills in both their languages because the Swedish skills were uniformly very high while the Turkish skills displayed only a moderate level. The comparison of the three cities suggests that the inclusiveness of the integration context has a positive effect on second-language skills while the size of the Turkish group in the city has a positive effect on Turkish skills. The emerging pattern is that the lowest portion of balanced bilinguals is ironically found in Stockholm. However, when the skill levels of the bilinguals in both their languages are considered, Stockholm displays the highest total skill level.