It all started in March 2020 when COVID-19 reached Europe. Practically the whole world was kept in quarantine, whereas Sweden, as generally known, chose another path, neither quarantine nor mandatory face masks in public places, only recommendations for both of the latter measures.
Life was more or less the same in Sweden in the midst of the corona pandemic while the rest of the world was kept in lockdown. During that lockdown period, people came up with different ways to interact and entertain each other virtually. Back then, the train operator and Swedish language teacher Robert Melwitz came up with the idea to teach people living both, in and especially outside of Sweden, the Swedish language while sitting at home in quarantine. The implementation was simple: create a Facebook group, announce it in other Facebook groups, and conduct the lessons using TEAMS software.
To his amazement, there was a much larger demand for the Swedish language than he could ever imagine. Hundreds and thousands of people from Germany, Eastern Europe, India, and North America joined his group. The Swedish language appears to be much more popular than people in Sweden might think. There is even a trend in the USA and Canada that as a result of genetic tests, many people who discover their Swedish heritage, decide to learn Swedish.
The online Swedish lessons were conducted twice a week, and there were 40 to 70 participants in each online lesson. The lessons were recorded so much more people could learn from them even if they could not partake in real-time sessions. Soon there was an entire community built up.
After a few months, in August 2021, when quarantine requirements ceased in many countries, people started to go to their offices, and return to their daily routines. Those who wished to continue learning Swedish with Robert Melwitz asked him to conduct private, intensive courses for them in order to achieve their objectives. Many medical doctors joined as they need to pass C1 Swedish level in order to work in Sweden as licensed doctors, or as permanent residents of Finland – as there is a language requirement, and Swedish is also an official language in Finland.
Those who could not afford the language course yet were eager to learn were also welcomed to join Swedish courses. At the same time, once a week, Robert organized the online Swedish Conversation Club, a virtual language café, where people from all over the world join to talk and practice Swedish and sometimes have book reading sessions. The online Swedish language café is very popular today, with thousands of members and dozens of active members attending every session. It is also an attractive place for Swedish language researchers with Swedish as second language field.
Due to the Ukrainian crisis in the winter of 2022 many Ukrainians sought refuge in Sweden. Normally refugees in Sweden are eligible for SFI (Swedish for migrants) yet the government decided not to provide them with Swedish language courses as it was thought that the war would end soon. Robert Melwitz was one of the first to take the initiative and gathered nearly 1800 Ukrainians to conduct an online Swedish course free of charge for them. Robert’s “Swedish for Ukrainians” project caught the attention of SVT, Swedish television. Nearly hundreds of people attended to virtual life session classes and recorded lessons were also available for those who could not attend.
Robert is particularly proud of the Ukrainian doctor students who chose to pursue the entire programme and went on to even pass the Swedish TISUS examination.
In 2023 Robert Melwitz initiated a project, “Hela världen pluggar svenska” (The whole world studies Swedish), offering free Swedish classes to all universities in the world by establishing an offshore Swedish language department at universities. All universities that wish to hold Swedish courses are welcome to join the project.
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About Robert Melwitz
Since 2020 Robert Melwitz has conducted Swedish language courses attended by hundreds of students who subsequently passed the C1 Swedish language proficiency test, TISUS in Sweden, and YKI in Finland.
Robert is so passionate about teaching the Swedish language, and making it available to everyone that one of his students called him “The Godfather of the Swedish language”.