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(How to) Learn Icelandic

Updated on June 26, 2011
Iceland: raw beauty
Iceland: raw beauty | Source

Why should you learn Icelandic?

Unless you live in Iceland, it doesn't seem like a very practical language to learn. If you are a native English speaker like me, you probably either don't know another language or only a little bit. Being able to speak multiple languages dramatically increases your brain's ability to form connections and think logically. It is a great way to stay sharp and impress yourself.

Why Icelandic, specifically?

There isn't necessarily one specific reason to learn Icelandic over any other language, but there are a few things you should keep in mind:

1) The Icelandic language, just like English, is derived from Old Norse. Because of this, many of the grammatical rules are similar. Grammar can be one of the most difficult concepts to grasp while learning a new language.

2) The pronunciation is extremely different from English. If you're learning a new language to have fun with it and to challenge yourself, Icelandic is for you. A native English speaker will find much of the pronunciation difficult at first, but, if you're not in it for the challenge, learn Spanish instead.

3) Iceland is cool, but Icelandic is hot. Okay, so I don't really have any way of proving that Icelandic is hot. But, anyone trying to learn an exotic language like Icelandic is awesome in my book. To be honest, I just started learning the language, but I found some amazing resources that I want to share with everyone...

Learning Icelandic is FREE (no bs):

The University of Iceland wants you to learn Icelandic. They have this amazing website called "Icelandic Online" that progressively walks you through their language. I suggest opening up "Google Translate" while you take the courses because nearly all of the instructions are in Icelandic, which happens to be an effective way of teaching.

Note: Don't use Google Translate's "listen" button for Icelandic. It will sound like an alien is having an aneurysm.

The crucial first step is reviewing the languages pronunciation. I started learning Icelandic without reviewing their alphabet - this is a big no-no... If you don't begin with the alphabet, you won't understand how the words you are hearing match up with the words you are reading. Furthermore, there are a lot of characters in Icelandic that aren't in the English alphabet.

I have an odd obsession with Iceland, so I don't expect most people to consider Icelandic an ideal language to learn. It's challenging, unique, esoteric and almost completely impractical. Still, there is an unusual allure that keeps me enticed.

If you are learning Icelandic, please feel free to contact me. We can practice together!

If you would like any more information, comment below and I will see if I can help. Thanks for reading!


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      herr_opa 4 years ago

      Awesome post. It seems some people dont find the value in learning a newlanguage just to expand your horizons and challenge yourself. I am a native Spanish speaker and, besides English, Ive learned German and Italian.

      These languages are not so obscure.... but then I did a Masters degree and shared a lab with a pair of Pakistanis, so I started to learn Urdu. A friend of mine was like "Why the hell would you want to learn urdu!?!?".... And its like "why WOULDN'T I?!". You get exposure to other things, learn the challenges of building sentences in other languages,etc. Oh and the similarities of Urdu and Spanish! (Pantloon,camiss, etc). Anyway, not everyone is a language freak like me and Im glad to have found this page. Im travelling to Iceland in November and am planning to start learning Icelandic, I'll definitely use the info here and come back for practicing!

      Awesome post, thanks!

    • profile image

      Cloud 4 years ago

      This is really interesting!Like you, I also have an unexplainable obsession with the Icelandic language, so for a challenge had decided to learn it. This page was really useful to me, thanks!

    • profile image

      Suzumiya 5 years ago

      I liked what you wrote. Languages are important to learn and although English is the current Lingua Franca is sad how many native speakers decide not to learn another language because they assume that everybody speaks English. I am glad to see that you decided to learn another language, what is better, an obscure language like Icelandic, which, if you successfully learn, will allow you to read Old Norse and Old Swedish with ease. I can speak Japanese, French, Spanish and communicate in German, to me kanji and hanzi (JP and ZH writing systems) are very easy and natural to me to learn, and now I will cram Icelandic once I get the books I ordered. Learning languages is such a marvellous thing, they're just the first step to understand and appreciate the wonders of another culture and history! Keep it up! Don't give up Icelandic even if it appears to be hard.

    • profile image

      an scandinavian 5 years ago

      Hey! My dad's Icelandic and my mom's African. My dad has always been promising to teach me Icelandic but he never has the time and my mom can't help me. Are there any books and audio tapes I can buy to teach myself.

    • profile image

      EmmaD 5 years ago

      Thank you so much for sharing this! I am only a freshman in college, but I too have a bit of an odd obsession with Iceland, my dream is to live there, but not knowing the language kind of complicates that. Although I don't have much free time on my hands to learn a language I do hope to get involved with this. Thanks so much for posting this!

    • maplethorpej profile image

      Jerad Maplethorpe 6 years ago from Minneapolis, Minn.

      It should say "Sign up for a new account" near the bottom right of the rectangular content area. Then you should just be able to create an account and sign in...

      Requirements quoted from the website:

      "To make use of Icelandic Online, you will need:

      A modern browser. IOL is tested for:

      Firefox 3+

      Google Chrome 5+

      Internet Explorer 7+ (IE 6 is NOT supported)

      Opera 10+

      Safari 5+

      The broswer must have an activated Flash-plugin, at least version 9+

      Javascript must be enabled.

      The browser must accept cookies from

      For video contents, 1 Mb/s connection speed or better is recommended. Slower connections still work but videos would then need more time for buffering."

    • profile image

      jt walters 6 years ago

      I had trouble logging into the free Icelandic lessons. any suggestions?

    • maplethorpej profile image

      Jerad Maplethorpe 6 years ago from Minneapolis, Minn.

      I wish I could take credit for the video, but unfortunately it isn't me. Nonetheless, the guy who's doing it is quite good haha.

    • JT Walters profile image

      JT Walters 6 years ago from Florida

      I am watching our alphabet presentation and I can't heko but think you need to be a a enw achor. BTW, Icelandic sounds really German. I might be able to pick this up since it is so close ot German.

      I am watching and studying!!

    • maplethorpej profile image

      Jerad Maplethorpe 6 years ago from Minneapolis, Minn.

      I absolutely appreciate the positive support, JT Walters!

      I completely agree with you about the classroom setting; learning a new language has to be a desire, not a forced academic requirement. I am very impressed that you know Chinese and Japanese as well! That's a lot of information to keep track of, haha!

      And, yes, I dearly hope to visit Iceland soon! Thanks for the response, and keep in touch.

    • JT Walters profile image

      JT Walters 6 years ago from Florida

      Hi Maplethorpej,

      Loved this hub. I might actually take up this language although I have so many I can't spell now. I have Chinese and Japanese as well. But I am writing to thank you for your obsession. It has given me an opportunity to learn yet another language. Languages are only hard when learned in the classroom. You pick them up very quick when you live in the country. So dude, you should take that much need vacation to Iceland. I am going to try this course ou suggested. It seems like it would be fun.

      All My Best,

      I am following you now!!


    • maplethorpej profile image

      Jerad Maplethorpe 6 years ago from Minneapolis, Minn.

      It is sad how much language is simplified, or even lost completely. I think people often forget that words represent the only medium we have for complex communication. I always love coming across a foreign word that has no direct translation in English.

      That's awesome to hear that you are digging in to Mandarin! Their written language appears so complex, yet it has such an artistic appeal. Being able to make sense of those characters (for a native English speaker) is quite impressive!

      Keep me updated, and thanks for reading!

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 6 years ago from United States

      My brother did a high school exchange in Iceland and loved it. I don't know if he learned much of the language but he came away with an appreciation of the life and culture. As far as languages go, I'm learning Mandarin which is the language spoken by more people than any other--yet seems "obscure" to most English speakers. I have a friend who works on language sin Papua New Guinea. She was saddened that her people group, the Kombio, were choosing to not teach their language to their children--letting them learn the trade language instead, even though my friend described it as "baby talk" compared to the richness of their own language.

    • maplethorpej profile image

      Jerad Maplethorpe 6 years ago from Minneapolis, Minn.

      It is awesome when you realize there is an underlying, common language between all human beings. Of course, the hard part is finding it.

      Great story, btw.

    • Alice DeWonder profile image

      Alice DeWonder 6 years ago from 3rd planet from Sun

      We have chosen homogenization. It somehow makes us feel safe; at the same time it makes us all appear to be penguins, when we should be demonstrating our differences, our individuality.

      A great percentage of the time people feel threatened when a language foreign to their ears is spoken - no matter what their heritage. Immediately the thought is born in their rationale that they are being ridiculed by those speaking the other language.

      I don't - that's why teaching ESOL/ESL was so much fun. My interest was learning many cultures in a compressed amount of time & space - and it worked.

      People are not foreigners, they are different. When that difference is respected, THAT's when the fun begins.

      Ya done good!

      Peace Baby

    • maplethorpej profile image

      Jerad Maplethorpe 6 years ago from Minneapolis, Minn.

      Thank you very much for the comment! It is sad how we have started abandoning "obscure" languages simply because they don't conform to the standards of capitalism.

      Hopefully we will all begin to appreciate the world beyond our personal perspectives.

    • Alice DeWonder profile image

      Alice DeWonder 6 years ago from 3rd planet from Sun

      It would stand to reason that this obscure language is being promoted for free. So many native languages are feeling the crunch from the wheels of capitalism that demand English. Currently in Hawai'i the native language is gasping - going down for the 3rd count.

      Thank you for making your readers aware.

      Because your perspective is different, it is perfect.