Monday, May 19, 2008

more SFI

JoeWhen I wrote last week about my upcoming SFI meeting, I made a crack about not expecting to start class anytime soon. I didn't really mean it, though, as I expected to come away from the meeting with a date in a week or two when I could start lessons. I should've known better.

Today's meeting was held in a high school auditorium on the west side of town. It took a little finding, as there weren't any signs posted, but I managed to get there before it got underway. There were three instructors there from SFI. Before the meeting they were all speaking perfectly understandable English, but once things got underway each of them went up on stage and gave a long presentation in Swedish, with translations provided by a man who was obviously a native speaker of neither English nor Swedish, so not only was his English difficult to understand at times, but he had to keep asking the presenters for clarifications of their very slow and deliberate Swedish. I cannot for the life of me figure out what this little exercise was supposed to accomplish, but it certainly succeeded in making the information very difficult to follow.

From what I could piece together, though, here's the deal. The SFI course runs for 30 hours a week (that's the Swedish equivalent of full time, and takes 40 hours a week to accomplish, since two hours a day are taken up with lunch and fika), and it lasts for a whole year, with two weeks off for Christmas and four weeks of vacation time. It's only about one half devoted to teaching Swedish, with the rest dedicated to a cultural introduction, job finding, etc. In short, it's not so much a beginner's course in speaking Swedish as a beginner's course in becoming Swedish. Apparently there are many immigrants who get support from the state when they move here, and they are required to take and pass the course if they don't want their aid to be cut off. It's really a massive enterprise, quite impressive even if it doesn't seem at first glance to work terribly well for me.

One of the biggest complaints about SFI has always been that being so large, it couldn't address the varied educational needs of its students. So now the classes are being split into three schools, and that's what today's meeting was about. The first school is Liber, which is aimed at people going into a field which requires higher education. The second is Lernia, which is for other professionals (construction, service industry, transportation, etc.). The last is Cederblad, intended primarily for those seeking more menial employment, but also covering people who aren't required to take the social education aspects, or who need to take the language lessons part time.

Here's the kicker, though: the purpose of the meeting was for us to decide which school we wanted to enroll in starting this coming August. I mean, I knew the wheels would turn slowly, but does it really need to take six months before starting class? This, of course, severely limits my options, as I'll be starting classes at the University the last week in August, so I certainly won't be able to do 30 hours a week of language study.

All hope is not (yet) lost, however. When I cornered the Liber presenter after the meeting broke up, she admitted that actually they didn't have any concrete information about how the various schools would work yet. Liber claims that it will provide a completely flexible learning schedule to accommodate professionals and students, and it may even present some online options. So I'm signed up for another informational meeting about Liber, to be held sometime in June. And if that doesn't work out, I can always bail to attending a couple of evening Cederblad lessons per week for some language practice.

But for now, I'm left to wonder where that copy of Beginner's Swedish has gotten to?

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