State-owned company Lernia on Tuesday launched a campaign to replace the standard form of Swedish with one that’s more inclusive of migrants.
The ‘new standard Swedish’, developed in collaboration with linguist Mikael Parkvall, mixes together accents and dialects that are commonly spoken in Sweden.
According to the staffing and training company, the new dialect better reflects Sweden in 2017 and the company hopes it will replace the neutral form of Swedish in recorded messages and on answering machines.
Training Manager at Lernia, Ina Tzacheva, told Östra Småland News there’s a labour shortage in Sweden and Europe and so it’s important that people with non-standard accents don’t feel excluded from the jobs market.
Expressing concern that some people are being excluded from work because of the way they speak, she told the newspaper: “We want to focus on how a person’s accent is not reflective of their skills and expertise … We cannot exclude people just because they do not speak in the same way as we do.”
Lernia hopes that businesses and organisations will use ‘new standard Swedish’ on their answering machines, and that it will become the default voice in recorded messages used in, for example, elevators. “We are looking for organisations, companies and sites throughout Kalmar County who want to help modernise the sound of Sweden,” said Ms Tzacheva.
So far, the dialect has already been picked up by Stockholm University’s library, and the Scouts.
Caroline Thunved from the Scouts said: “We are both proud and pleased that we were asked to be the first company to use the new Standard Swedish. As an organisation that is active in criticising [societal] norms in several areas, this now adds a new dimension, namely how we sound when we welcome new and existing members on our switchboard.”
Staff librarian at Stockholm University, Birgitta Lindgren Hellmark, said the institution hopes recordings in the new Standard Swedish will “increase people’s feeling of belonging regardless of pronunciation.
“In addition, [we hope the dialect] inspires conversation about similarities and differences, and why we so often allow differences to divide us even when they are irrelevant.”
On Flashback, the internet’s largest Swedish language forum, reactions to the new Standard Swedish are largely negative.
CaptainNemo wrote: “Just listened and a shudder of discomfort … instead of a uniform pronunciation [the new Standard Swedish] migrates between different dialects and even foreign accents.”
Other people found the new form of Swedish more sinister. Appearing to refer to a government-backed campaign which told native Swedes to integrate with migrants, one user said: “We are Sweden, you will be integrated. Resistance is futile.”
“So now they abolish the only national form of Swedish. It does not exist. Things are beginning to resemble the Soviet system in which everything that has gone before in history is erased,” another post read.