The importance of speaking Chinese
To learn a new language is never a waste. But Swedish professor Erik Ringman is criticizing the fact that more and more Swedish children are learning Chinese: “Offering Chinese has been a way for certain Swedish schools to profile themselves and chase after upper middle class parents with status anxiety. The Chinese language is supposed to prepare the children for the future and make sure that Kalle and little Lisa can defend the family’s social position in a more and more global world.” Now others join the debate. “We view it as a treasure being able to speak several languages, and it’s useful to be able to speak Chiense,” says Jill Nilsson, founder of Stockholm International Montessori school, which has a special focus on China. “Our view is that language is important and you must start early.” Ringman is critical towards the government’s efforts in trying to make Chinese a language among others in the Swedish schools. As China’s economical power in the world is strengthening, the interest in learning the language has increased in Sweden. The government believes Chinese will be an even more important language for the next generation. This fall, 46 linguistic courses are offered at colleges, and statistics from Skolverket (the Swedish National Agency for Education) show that the number of high school students with final grades in Chinese has more than doubled the past four years, to over 900 students. But it is a difficult language to learn, and according to Ringman it risks being useless since the Chinese themselves use English when dealing with foreigners. While Jill Nilsson agrees the language is difficult, she points out that it’s about learning another country’s culture as well. All of the 650 children at the Stockholm International Montessori school (SIM) learn Mandarin, and they start already in pre-school. “For our children it’s about learning something nobody else knows, it boosts their self-esteem and the kids think it’s a lot of fun,” Nilsson says, but adds that it is a problem if you start learning the language later in school. “At that time you cannot learn Chinese, but need to go to the country in order to study it,” she says. Nilsson welcomes the government’s initiative, but believes that it’s more difficult to find competent teachers than to actually learn to speak Chinese.

Hate towards women: a societal problem
Did you know that “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is really called “Men who hate women” in Swedish (Män som hatar kvinnor)? Perhaps Stieg Larsson was not only a genial author but also someone who could predict the future. During a recent ladies’ soccer game between Sweden and Denmark, men poured sexist and homophobic comments over the female players via Twitter. Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt emphasizes the problem: “This is a serious societal problem,” he says to daily Expressen. In the tweets the Swedish soccer players are referred to as “butches”, “whores”, and “lesbians” with “small breasts and short hair”. “I believe most of us are hoping that great soccer and good Swedish results will be the focus instead,” Reinfeldt adds, via his press secretary, to daily Expressen. Says Gustav Fridolin, spokesperson for the Swedish Green Party: “This has nothing to do with soccer, but seems to always come up whenever women do well.” The Swedish team’s coach Pia Sundhage has previously stated that she hadn’t seen the comments: “I have better things to do than comment on bad comments,” she says to TT.

Woke up as a Swede
When Michael Boatwright came out of his coma, the nurses asked him all kinds of questions but it became all too clear that Boatwright had no clue who he was. The gray-haired man didn’t even recognize the photo on his ID card. Though his driver’s license said he was born in Florida, Boatwright spoke only Swedish, and had no memory of his life as an American. “The guy Michael, it wasn’t me. I’m Johan Ek,” he said via an interpreter in a recent interview at Desert Regional Medical Center. Boatwright was found unconscious in a Motel 6 room at noon on February 28, from where he was taken to the hospital. With him he had a duffel bag with sport clothes, a backpack, five tennis rackets, two cell phones, cash, and a set of old photos and four forms of IDs, with the name Michael Thomas Boatwright. After having gone through mental and physical health exams, Boatwright was diagnosed with “transient global amnesia” and was declared to be in a “fugue state”. These conditions, both of which are temporary and related to memory loss, were most probably triggered by some kind of emotional or physical trauma. Boatwright has been in contact with the local Swedish-American community, and one member of the Vasa Order of America’s Desert Viking Lodge in San Jacinto, Viola Wyler, has had many conversations with him in Swedish, about the President, movie stars, WW2 – anything that might trigger his memory. “All of the events that he talked about, he has never been involved in it; he always feels that he is looking in," Wyler said. She guesses that Boatwright was in Sweden in the mid1980’s. His Swedish does not belong to any particular regional dialect, leading Wyler to believe he either learned it later in life or has not used it much in the past 30 or so years, she said.

Omega 3 supplements increase risk of allergy
A new Swedish study shows that omega 3 fatty acids increase the risk in children to develop allergies. The researchers behind the study now want to dissuade pregnant women from taking these supplements. Usually, the omega -3 fatty acids are referred to as “the healthy fat”, yet the study shows that the supplement suppresses the immune system and besides preventing the infant’s immune system from maturing, it also seems to develop allergies in the child. The study is based on saved blood from the umbilical cords of 129 infants in Östersund born between the years 1996-1997. The researchers (from Chalmers, the Sahlgrenska Academy, and Umeå University) collected the blood and stored it in a freezer and followed the children with regular allergy controls up to age 13. Of the selected children, 48 showed no signs of allergy while growing up, 44 had respiratory allergies like asthma or hay fever, and 37 of the children had allergic eczema. When looking at the fatty acids in the children’s umbilical cord blood, it was discovered that those who were allergic at age 13 had more polyunsaturated fat in their blood at birth than those who had not developed allergies. The children who had no allergies while growing up, on the other hand, had more than the “normal” amount of monounsaturated fat in the blood. How do the researchers know that other factors aren’t at play here? “We’ve followed the children meticulously close, how they’ve lived, and taken into account if they have allergic mothers. But we still saw a clear connection between the children’s composition of fatty acids and allergies,” says Agnes Wold, an immunologist and one of the researchers. The researchers don’t know how much omega-3 constitutes a risk, however. In the umbilical blood there is a higher omega-3 than in the mother, according to Ann-Sofie Sandberg, nutrition researcher and Professor of Food Science at Chalmers, and another of the researchers behind the study. Yet, pregnant women are not told to avoid easting fatty fish. “No, there’s no danger in eating common food. Several studies show that fatty fish contains a lot that protects against allergy. But it’s worrisome when omega-3 is being added to infant formula, and it is not good if the mothers eat very high levels of omega-3 as supplements. Omega-3 is also important for the building of the fetal brain. I don’t want to discourage mothers to eat certain foods, but from the omega-3 supplements,” says Sandberg, and adds that too much omega-3 probably does not affect allergy sensitivity in grown-ups. “Who becomes allergic is determined inside the woman’s uterus and during the child’s first year, that’s when the immune system is modeled regardless of when in life you develop allergies. Thus it is important not to suppress it with omega-3 fatty acids. On the other hand, omega-3 can help middle-aged men and women in the fight against cardiovascular diseases. But what’s good for one group of people is not necessarily good for another.”