Joacim Alm (L), 20-years old and Johan Berglund (R), 33-years old are friends and both share a passion for rock music. Joacim’s father and one of his brothers speak Älvdalska, but he never learned himself. Johan grew up with everybody speaking the language around him, yet he never spoke a word himself until he was 17. “I had heard that it was threatened and might disappear so I just thought I might as well start speaking. In the beginning, it must have sounded very odd since I made it up as I went, thinking to myself ‘how would grandma’ have said this?’. When I went to school nobody spoke about Älvdalska. I only have one friend that I have completely shifted to Älvdalska with. I think it’s fun to speak it and I do everyday, even with people who don’t understand. It is so unique and I want to take part in preserving it.”
Johan has participated in several events that have highlighted the language and he also took part in a meeting with younger Älvdalska speakers where he performed a song and showed them a humorous video that he made with a friend about the language. Joacim says he wants to move away. “Anywhere, but here… apart from Stockholm”. Johan on the other hand enjoys the life in Älvdalen. He describes it as easy and spontaneous. He says that he thinks the youth is pressured to leave the small town and move into the cities much more today than before. “If you stay here and become a peasant bohemian, you are a failure in other people’s eyes. But I don’t care, I like it here and I take the day as it comes”.
The isolated valley of Älvdalen ('River Valley'), in Dalarna, central Sweden, is by no means stereotypically Scandinavian. Both landscape and lifestyle seem to have more in common with a nostalgic 1950s vision of the United States, where hillbilly meets rock-and-roll.
This project focuses on the relationship between generations in a changing social climate. Some 3,000 people in Älvdalen speak Älvdalska (Elfdalian) - an ancient language with strong links to Old Norse, the language once spoken by the Vikings - but only about 45 of these are teenagers. The community is dealing with the threat of the extinction of Älvdalska in an unusual way. Knowing that the key to revitalization is to encourage a new generation of speakers, local authorities in Älvdalen give grants of 6,000 kronor (about €730) to young school-leavers who sign a contract obliging them to 'actively try to use the language at all times possible'.