So, how’s your summer coming along? Having fun? I know that quite a few of you are contemplating a post-summer move to Sweden and have many questions regarding this process. I’ve already started covering some of the most basic issues, most recently – how to read apartment ads, and a while back there was a post about getting personnummer.
But the question that keeps coming back time and time again is “Once in Sweden how do I sign up for Swedish classes?”
Well, that depends on in which kommun you are going to live. Why? Different kommuner have different ways of managing their SFI programs. What’s SFI, I hear you ask? Svenska För Invandrare – Swedish for immigrants program.
So, how does it work and where do I sign up, I hear you ask?
OK, let’s take it one by one.
It works like this – All legal immigrants who have personnummer and are registered (folkbokföring) in their kommun are eligible for free Swedish classes in that kommun.
Now, because SFI works differently in different kommuner, you have to get all the details regarding those classes directly from your city office.
In some towns, SFI is a separate school and has its own teachers. In some cities the SFI program is run by Folkuniversitetet (and here you have to be careful not to get confused, because in many cities FU offers its own Swedish language classes for which you have to pay, quite much, actually), and in some places SFI is handled by Komvux (adult education school). So yeah, I can’t really tell you how it is where you’re going to live.
The quality of Swedish language instruction you will get at SFI also varies greatly from kommun to kommun. It might be excellent in one place and beyond dismal somewhere else. There are many foreigners who praise SFI and just as many who have nothing good to say about the system. So it all depends. And as in most schools, it depends on two main factors: funding and teachers. And of those two, I’d say that funding is the most important one. You can have the best teachers in the world, but they can only do so much without any money.
At some SFI schools you might be asked to buy your own books, and at others you will get a daily xeroxed handout. At some SFI schools you will have a library and a computer lab, and at others – zip, zilch, nada.
But in general, what can you expect when signing up for SFI? First, someone should check your current Swedish ability and based on that assign you to the appropriate class. Second, you’ll get put on a waiting list for that class and go home. Then, when a space becomes available, you’ll get either a letter or a phone call telling you to show up for school. But don’t trust the system, that phone call or letter may never come, if you are not being persistent. I’ve heard of people waiting patiently, only to be told months later that “Well, you never contacted us, so we thought you were no longer interested.”
In some SFIs there might not be any initial division between the levels – everybody gets more or less dumped into one big class. So you might have people who don’t know how to read and write in their mother language and people with master’s degrees from their home countries. After a few weeks, the teachers usually sort out who needs to go where.
Basically, SFI has four levels: A, B, C and D. In reality, most moderately intelligent people who know how to spell their own name start at level B, then very quickly move to level C. There is, or at least – should be, a test between levels C and D. And level D ends with a “big” national test. Don’t worry, it’s not all that hard to get to level D and pass that test. It’s not meant to get you fluent in Swedish, but merely – functional. After completing level D and passing that test, you should be able to communicate in Swedish, that’s it. It gives you the sort of communicative skills required to hold down a simple job.
If you want to, for example go to university and study in Swedish, you need to continue with your Swedish education. But we’ll cover that subject another time.
Now, if any of you have any interesting SFI stories, please, by all means, share them in the comments section!