Don’t Teach Swedes In Arabic But Teach Them Arabic?

Many Swedish schools are experimenting with programs to teach math to students in Arabic who come from societies in which that is the language. Members of several Swedish political parties are upset because they argue that allowing children who are proficient in Arabic to learn math in that language will somehow lead to their inability to learn Swedish. It has always been ironic to me that those of us who knew a foreign language were not allowed to use in in school but we were compelled to take a foreign language in order to graduate. The assumption that learning math in Arabic will interfere with use of Swedish are ignorant of the reality of language acquisition. I was conversant in three languages by the age of eight and readily moved from one to the other when the occasion required.

There are now thousands of students in Swedish schools who take Arabic as their foreign language. In a recent experiment in Prague, pre-schoolers are being taught English by having them use English while playing or studying. For some reason that is OK, but allowing Arabic people to use their language while learning math is not approved by politicians who have never taught anything in schools.

Of course, it was the Arab peoples who gave the Western World mathematics.

  • Brian Barker

    I notice that Barack Obama wants everyone to learn another language, but which one should it be? The British learn French, the Australians study Japanese, and the Americans prefer Spanish.

    Why not decide on a non-national neutral common language, taught worldwide, in all nations?

    An interesting video can be seen at A glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at

  • Fred Stopsky

    Historically, in America, the vast majority of schools used to have most students take French or German. Those languages are now being supplanted by Spanish and a host of others.