Iranian-born Yashar Moradbakhti and his friends Per-Olov Jernberg and Morten Diesen founded Lingio in the summer of 2015, a company that helps immigrants learn Swedish as a professional language. The platform received the international IFMA – Innovation Prize in 2018 and has become an integral part of the national integration strategy of the Kingdom of Sweden.
I am originally from Iran. Normal family, normal background—at least in times of peace. We had our place in society. We moved to Sweden around 30 years ago. Eight years of the Iran-Iraq War and the uncertainty that comes with war were enough motivation for my parents to leave our home country. My mother went ahead with me while my father stayed another year to sell his company and our house before joining us in Sweden. Of course, we were not the only ones seeking refuge. Many educated Iranians left their homeland and are now scattered around the world.
Why did we choose Sweden? Well, my parents were searching the map for the most democratic country on earth. The basic requirements for starting a new life were good. Still, my family had to start from scratch. Many other migrants who settled in Sweden felt the same way.
Now, 30 years later, I am doing my part to solve one of the problems that my family once faced and that Sweden continues to face. People from Syria, Africa or other unsafe areas are still on the same journey as we were back then. 20 % of today’s Swedish population was born abroad. These people are urgently needed in the labor market. There is, however, a particularly big barrier: language.
For this reason, we created Lingio in the summer of 2015, a learning tool that helps immigrants learn Swedish. We focus on professional work language because it paves the way into a given society. It is, for example, not really necessary to be able to philosophize in Swedish about Nietzsche or Goethe. Instead, people have to master the communication relevant to their professional field. This is why Lingio offers subject-specific courses, which are taught by experts from the respective areas, be it cleaning, construction, transport, IT, real estate or healthcare, to name just a few. The calculation is always the same and simple:
If you are proficient in your field's professional language, you have a good chance to get a job. If you have a job, you will find local friends, learn something about Swedish culture, and further develop yourself.
You will integrate yourself into society. Companies also benefit from linguistically proficient employees. Workers who do not speak Swedish and thus cannot adequately do their work are in many ways an additional cost for the entire company. This is one of the important tasks in the future for many corporations: How can they recruit qualified foreign employees who are urgently needed on the one hand, and how can they successfully integrate them into the workforce on the other? The social challenges arising from language barriers will only increase in a globalized economy. We can see from the COVID-19 crisis how greatly our world is interconnected. If something happens in China, the effects can be felt as far as Europe and beyond.
This interconnection means that personal skills will soon be significantly more important than the spatial proximity to the workplace.
But if you have the right skills, you will be able to work anywhere in the world. And yet there will still be one huge barrier: language. I also had to overcome this barrier. As a child who could not speak Swedish, I developed from an outsider into a member of society. Once this barrier is broken, countless possibilities open up. Moving to another country and cutting your own roots always requires the will to take risks, audacity, and a certain degree of flexibility. Many immigrants automatically bring these skills with them. They bring nothing less than entrepreneurship. And no country on earth can have enough of that.