This week, a new board member of Swedish for Professionals, Erik Sundberg, sat down to tell us a little about himself, his work and educational experiences, and his aspirations for the future of the company.
Start by telling us about your educational background and internship/work experiences, and what brought you to SFP.
I’m a person with many passions, which have found different ways of expressing themselves in my career so far.
During high school, I had the good fortune of doing an exchange program to the United States, propelling me on an international path. I have since lived, worked, and studied in Uruguay and France for extended periods. My deep interest in the interplay of society and technology led me to my Master’s studies in Sociotechnical Systems Engineering at Uppsala University. I’m now looking to complement this with a Bachelor of Arts in Economic History, which provides a different set of important tools to help me better grasp pressing questions of our common present and future.
I also have an extensive background with the non-profit organization Youth For Understanding, a global leader of intercultural student exchange programs. Here I have worked internationally in many different capacities related to leadership, facilitation, and intercultural training. As an offshoot of these experiences, I lately helped co-found The VALE – an initiative that promotes and fosters value-driven leadership through educational programs for young leaders.
Currently I’m also a team member at Stellar Capacity, a leading education company helping organizations and leaders to drive change and innovate for a more networked, inclusive, and digital future. In my capacity as a Program Advisor, I help drive our outreach to forward-leaning leaders who would be potential participants in our programs.
What are you passionate about? How does this motivate you in your role as a board member of Swedish for Professionals?
I’m extremely passionate about languages and language-learning! I always joke that if personal curiosity was the only relevant factor in choosing a field of study, I would have become a linguist. In my own living abroad experiences, learning the language of the country was the key that helped me understand and start to master my environment – doors were opened and relationships were formed that definitely wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
Helping others acquire the tools they need to do the same is extremely fulfilling, and is something I as a board member am looking forward to as we continue to improve on and scale up the important work of Swedish For Professionals.
What do you do to challenge yourself, both in and outside of work?
On the note of language-learning, it’s something I definitely do in my free time (and every opportunity I get at work)! My current struggle is making my French and Spanish happily co-exist. They both work just fine in their respective contexts, but unfortunately my brain processes them too similarly to be able to fluently switch between the two without creating a terrible mix of françpañol.
Tell us about your vision for the future of SFP
Learning about, and working to bridge, cultural differences is not just something I love doing, but something I find extremely important. The only way forward for our continued shared prosperity as a species and being able to solve our global challenges is increased global collaboration.This in due turn will require forward-looking individuals empowered with global skills and competencies, who can be bridge builders in an increasingly interconnected world.
Even (especially?) in times of uncertainty, these global competencies – including strong intercultural, communication, and language skills – are truly skills of the future, and high in demand.
Swedish for Professionals is already a leader in language learning for international talent coming to Sweden. Moving forward, I believe we can expand on this role to become a leader in also equipping individuals with the broader skills they need to succeed in a globalized world.
In your mind, how does SFP benefit people? Where do you see the company doing the most good now and in the future?
I once heard somebody say “I don’t need to learn a new language, in the future an app will just translate everything for me and that will be just the same.” I couldn’t disagree more.
Nelson Mandela said it best:
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”
Mastering a new language is a transformational journey, helping you connect with people and understand other cultures like nothing else can. It’s so much more than just learning new words to say old things; it opens up a novel way to see and experience the world.
Through our innovative and specialized approach, we at Swedish for Professionals help individuals take their language learning and cultural integration to the next level – truly unlocking their full potential to connect with others and the world around them.
How do you see your role in fulfilling your goals/vision for SFP, and what are your thoughts on how the board members fit into that mission?
In my role as member of the board, I hope to draw from my experiences in intercultural training, international living, and sales to contribute to Swedish for Professional’s mission and further increase our impact. I believe we have important work to do in broadening both our offers and outreach, and I’m very much looking forward to getting to it!
What advice would you give to expats who have moved here and are thinking about learning Swedish?
Language learning isn’t just something that happens by itself. Even little children listen to hours and hours of their native language every day and make mistakes all the time before being able to form coherent sentences. If you want to learn a new language, you have to actively work with it, and that means actively dedicating time to practice.
The more you then include others in your journey and force “external accountability” (such as signing up for a language course), the more likely you are to then stick with it!
Any hobbies/hidden talents you want to tell us about?
I spent my Covid-19 spring lockdown in France, and I found the time and mental space to pick up the guitar again after many years. I’ve come to re-appreciate many things with it, including the immediate sense of gratification that comes with visibly improving at something in a short space of time once you apply yourself.
A huge thank you to Erik for sitting down for this interview! Don’t forget to check out our Swedish classes for individuals here! You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to keep up with our latest news, programs, and resources.
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