Second foreign languages in the Swedish school context - The views of school leaders

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Politicians and stakeholders widely support the “mother tongue plus two” language policy (European Commission) according to which all European citizens should be able to communicate in at least two foreign languages (FLs). However, despite high political and societal ambitions, recent reports suggest that FLs other than English are suffering in Europe and Sweden is no exception to this trend. One third of all Swedish pupils starting to study a second FL (French, German or Spanish) in lower secondary school abandon the subject within three years (Tholin & Lindqvist, 2009). In fact, second FLs are the only subjects lacking a mandatory status in the Swedish compulsory school. Moreover, according to the Eurobarometer (2012) there is a lack of motivation for language learning. Sweden is the only country among the surveyed countries where a majority says that lack of motivation is a reason that dissuades them from learning another language, but we know very little about how views and attitudes towards FLs are shaped in the school context. The overall aim of the TAL-project (Teaching, Assessment and Learning) is to gain a better understanding of learning conditions and outcomes in FLs other than English in the Swedish school context. The project is interdisciplinary and draws on research in education, language teaching, language assessment and language learning. The project runs from 2016 through 2018 and involves data collection in several phases. In a first phase we have surveyed 425 Swedish compulsory schools starting with a head teachers' questionnaire. This questionnaire aims to survey relevant educational frame factors and provide a picture of how foreign languages are organised and perceived in a representative selection of Swedish schools. In this presentation, we will discuss responses to the questions concerning head teachers' view of foreign languages in school, e.g. the perceived status of the subject, the attitudes towards a mandatory second foreign language and challenges for the future. Seemingly little research has focused on head teachers' view of modern languages and its impact on teaching and student outcomes, but educational research shows that sayings, doings and relatings within an educational setting will contribute in the shaping of a praxis (Kemmis, 2009). The results of the survey will be discussed in relation to the headmasters' own educational background and to educational and regional aspects of the different schools. References Eurobarometer. (2012). Europeans and their languages: Eurobarometer 386 report. Kemmis, S. (2009). Action research as a practice-based practice. Educational Action Research, 17(3), 463-474. Tholin, J., & Lindqvist, A. (2009). Språkval svenska/engelska på grundskolan: en genomlysning. Högskolan i Borås, Institutionen för pedagogik.


External organisations
  • Stockholm University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature
  • Educational Sciences
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Publication categoryResearch
EventL'image des langues: vingt ans après - University of Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Duration: 2017 Nov 102017 Nov 11


ConferenceL'image des langues
OtherColloque Image Langues
Internet address

Related research output

Jonas Granfeldt, Susan Sayehli & Malin Ågren, 2019, Des mots et des langues qui nous parlent...: Représentations langagières, enseignement et apprentissage. Conti, V., Johnsen, L. A. & de Pietro, J-F. (eds.). Neuchâtel: Institut de recherche et de documentation pédagogique, p. 37-53

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPaper in conference proceeding

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Related projects

Susan Sayehli, Jonas Granfelt, Malin Ågren, Camilla Bardel, Gudrun Erickson & Rakel Österberg

Swedish Research Council


Project: ResearchCollaboration with schools

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