For over 800 years, Finnish has been Sweden's largest minority language. Owing to the recent years' influx of asylum seekers from predominantly Arab-speaking countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Arabic has now deposed Finnish to third place, researcher Mikael Parkvall argued in an opinion piece published in Svenska Dagbladet.
Parkvall estimated the number of Arabic speakers in the Scandinavian country of 10 million as "over 200,000." According to Parkvall's calculation, the number of Arabic speakershas doubled over the past decade, while the ageing Finnish diaspora, on the contrary, has been leaking speakers at the fastest rate.
While this development was hardly surprising, Parkvall argued, it nevertheless constituted a "historic milestone," as an over 800-year-old episode in Swedish history effectively came to an end at some time after the 2015 migrant crisis.
Parkvall also highlighted the lack of official statistics on this matter, which he found "strange," given the fact that Sweden takes pride in its statistical tradition. He also stressed a common belief in "big brother" who keeps a record of everyone's actions and capabilities.
While the United Nations and the Council of Europe have both suggested that Swedish authorities show an interest in this issue, however their proposals have seemingly fallen on deaf ears, Parkvall noted, stressing that Sweden has no qualms about keeping records on potentially sensitive things like political sympathies, STDs or cannabis consumption.
"The reason is the sensitivity of the matter. Mapping out language affiliation is considered to be almost the same as identifying ethnicity, and mapping ethnicity is almost the same as plotting genocide. It is thus in reference to ‘personal integrity' that the Swedish state is most proud of its ignorance of the issue," Parkvall wrote, citing Finland, Switzerland and Canada as multi-language countries that are perfectly able to maintain their democratic traditions while keeping track of their language use.
Parkvall's publications set Swedish Twitter afire.
"For hundreds of years, Finnish has been the second-largest language in Sweden. Now it's Arabic. For hundreds of years, Finns have been the largest minority group in Sweden. Now it's Syrians," WIllian Hahne of the right-wing party Alternative for Sweden tweeted.
I hundratals år har finskan varit näst största språket i Sverige. Nu är det arabiska.— William Hahne (AfS) (@William_Hahne) 31 мая 2018 г.
I hundratals år har finländare varit största minoritetsgruppen i Sverige. Nu är det syrier. #afs2018 https://t.co/8Cffkyjm75 @friatider
"The next milestone will be when Arabic becomes the LARGEST native language. It will only take a few decades," user KalleMedKepsen wrote.
"But there is no Islamization going on. No, none at all," another user chipped in.
Men det pågår ingen islamisering. Nej, då. Icke alls.— Charles Keatington #IAmTommyRobinson (@Keatington) May 31, 2018
In recent years, Arabic has been gaining ground in the Swedish media and public life. Swedish Radio has had broadcasts in Arabic since 2013. In April 2017, Sweden arranged its first-ever Arabic book fair, epitomizing the growing importance of Arabic in everyday life.
Mikael Parkvall is a linguist, researcher and lecturer at Stockholm University. He is also the author of the 2015 book "Sweden's Languages" forecasting future language development in the Scandinavian nation.