Pauline Diurson Runfors, the second person from the right is the initiator. Photo: Per Larsson.
Pauline Diurson Runfors, the second person from the right is the initiator. Photo: Per Larsson.

Last autumn, Pauline Diurson Runfors, who studies political science and economics, and her mother, Pia Runfors, were thinking about what they could do to help newly arrived refugees. Pia started meeting with a group in her office at a PR firm every week after their language class. Pauline was present at these meetings and later started her own group in order to help more people. In December, she and fellow student David Mattsson started a language café at the University. About 20 new arrivals attend the meetings, which are held once a week. Paulina and David are usually joined by some of their fellow students.

“An important aspect is for the participants to meet people who speak Swedish, as language is an important part of integration. Social integration is just as important as linguistic integration. The reason my group comes to the University is that most participants are interested in further study, and this way they get to experience the university environment,” says Pauline.

When we visit the language café, we find a table laden with Arabic dishes prepared by the participants. Dishes such as falafel and hummus are not too difficult to explain in Swedish. Some of the ingredients, however, such as radish and eggplant, turn out to be good language practice. There are also opportunities to discuss waiting in line and other “Swedish” social rules.

Basel Al Harire comes from Syria and is studying Swedish For Immigrants, where he found out about the language café. He has been there four or five times, and this time he brought his two brothers with him.

“This is a good way to meet Swedes and practice the language.”

Mohamed Salah from Egypt says that you have to learn Swedish in order to get a job.

“It is great that students want to meet us and talk. We get to learn more about such things as traditions, food and hobbies, as well as a chance to socialise.”