“If You Could Speak Swedish", 2001, video, 23 min.

The Turkish artist Esra Ersen's project, “If You Could Speak Swedish", is about language and social boundaries. For this project, the artist has enlisted the cooperation of a number of foreigners and refugees in one of the suburbs south of Stockholm who study Swedish at InfoKomp, Huddinge. Also attending the course during the beginning of the autumn, Esra Ersen asked the students to write down, in their mother language, What they would like to say if they could speak Swedish?

The students were free to choose whatever subject they wanted, and the answers vary between personal, emotional comments and political statements. Their answers have been translated into Swedish from amongst other languages Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Spanish and Bengali. In front of the camera the student try, with the help of a teacher, to correctly pronounce their sentences in Swedish. Facial expressions, gestures and intonation add to and modify the meaning conveyed by the spoken word. The ease and fluency of the students' comments in their native language contrast with the difficulties of using a new language.