Anonymous asked: I'm looking to travel to Iceland in the summer of 2013 and one of my main concerns is not speaking the language. I speak English and German and have some foundation level Polish, but hailing from Australia I have no exposure to any of the scandinavian tongues. If I want to travel independently will this be a problem? Should I put in the time to learning some Icelandic, or after just one year would I be no better off? Thanks for your help, I love your blog.
Don’t worry about language at all. Virtually all Icelanders are fluent in English.
Still it is possible to learn Icelandic like this guy did. But for you it would be plenty to learn a few friendly phrases. You could also learn “every single word in Icelandic”.
Anonymous asked: Hae! May I ask you to tell me that is the word áttavitar related with the number 8? btw tuttugu is a funny number but níutíu is almost as töff Takk Fyrir!
Áttavitar is the plural of áttaviti, which means compass. Áttaviti is a conjunction of two words, átt (direction) and viti knower/teller/indicator), thus “direction indicator”. If you were to spell out the number eight in Icelandic, it would be átta. I actually don’t think there is any relation between the átta (8) and átt (direction).
If you on the other hand think about the relations between the Icelandic words and their English counterparts you can find connections. “Eight” and “átta” are clearly related although quite different, just as most if not all of the numbers. Einn = one, tveir = two, þrír = three, fjórir = four, fimm = five, sex = six, sjö = seven, átta = eight, níu = nine and tíu = ten. The two languages lie on two different branches of the Germanic language tree.
Tuttugu (20) is a pretty funny sounding number I suppose. Níutíu simply means “nine ten”. You might like “þrettán” (13) as well, pronounced something like “threat-town” with a strong th beginning and a strong rolling r. “Þrettánhundruðsextíu og tvö” is the year that “tíu þúsund” cubic kilometers of ash erupted from Öræfajökull.
coeurdelhistoire asked: I have been seriously thinking about moving to Iceland with the intention of working there long enough to get a handle on the language. While English is my first language, I'm also fluent in French and semi-fluent in a few other languages. I was wondering if this could be considered helpful in finding a job in the tourism market?
And a completely unrelated question, Welsh (and other Gaelic languages) seem very similar to Icelandic/Norwegian/Swedish. Is this just a coincidence, or do they have a similar structure?
Of course all language skills are well appreciated by tourism companies. For any tourism job, English would be an absolute necessity. Other languages sought after languages are French, German and Spanish. We get plenty of visitors from these countries and they often avoid English. Knowing Icelandic is always a plus but definitely not a requirement.
With some language skills it should be possible to find a summer job in tourism. Winter jobs are harder to come by as there are much fewer travelers in winter. Young people from Nordic countries should check out Nordjobb to find a job. Others are probably best off contacting companies directly. Icelandic Mountain Guides have a bit of a French emphasis and maybe some sales jobs or guiding.
Icelandic and Gaelic have some minor relation yes. Although Iceland was probably first settled by Vikings, it had probably been visited often by the Papar from the British Isles. The Scandinavian Vikings also had Gaelic slaves they’d picked up on the way. You can read more about the Norse Gaelics and their influence on the language on Wikipedia.
Anonymous asked: Hi!
I'd like to know if an icelander does not speak norwegian can he understand a norwegian speaker? becuse thiese languages sounds so similar to me
All of the Nordic languages, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Faeroese have a common origin and are very similar. Icelandic and Faeroese (Faeroe Islands) became mostly isolated around 1000 years ago and have changed little since. For this reason Icelanders can read and understand 1000 year old texts from any of these countries, even though today’s inhabitants might be incapable.
Norwegian, Swedish and Danish are today all very similar. These countries took turns ruling each other to some extent through wars and royal marriages. Since Icelandic was cut off, they’ve all been heavily influenced by German and French, both through trade, wars and again royal marriages. Still despite the similarities, people don’t always communicate easily across the borders. They can all read each other’s texts, but pronunciation varies quite a bit. Swedes and Norwegians usually understand each other, but the Danes are further off.
Icelandic and Faeroese are very similar despite minimal contact. Both seem to just have stayed as they were. So today an Icelander and Faeroese can read each other’s languages and communicate.
Icelanders study Danish in school for 4-7 years. We don’t necessarily become fluent during this time, but we can easily read Danish and only need to spend a short while there, studying or working to become fluent. And actually, due to the similarities the same goes with all the other Nordic languages. Icelanders can easily read all the Nordic languages and are quick to become fluent if needed. Since you ask about Norwegian in particular, than of Swedish, Norwegian and Danish, Norwegian is the closest to Icelandic. So even though I for example have studied Danish for 7 years and lived in Sweden for 1 year, I still understand spoken Norwegian the best and they tend to understand me. I think it is mainly the pronunciation similarities that help.
A sad thing, I think, is that people from all of these countries very often turn to English when speaking together. Everybody speaks decent English in these countries, but it only requires a little more effort to communicate via your own language and by picking up words and words.
summercubus asked: Could you please upload some videos doing a sort of class in Icelandic? It would be really nice to learn some:)
Haha I don’t have the equipment or quite the motivation for that. Check out these Chinese kids that made a video of themselves singing in Icelandic. I will post some phrases though.
Here’s a tongue twister
Það fer að verða meira ferðaveðrið [Thaad ferr ath ver-tha may-ra ferth-a vethrid]
Circa = Soon it will be weather to travel.
rumorcontrol asked: Hi! Visiting for the first time in September. I'm concerned and curious about learning a little of the language. How important do you think that would be, and can you recommend a good book/CD/program? Thanks.
Everybody in Iceland speaks pretty good English, so there is no definite need to learn Icelandic. However as anywhere, making an honest attempt at the language is always welcomed. Learning at the least basic phrases such as (with rough phonetics):
Góðan daginn [go-than-die-in] = good day / hello
Hæ [hie] = Hi
Bless bless [bless-bless] = Literally “bless” but used as bye
Takk fyrir [taakk-fyrrir] = Thank you. Can also say simply “takk”.
Afsakið [afsa-keeth] = Excuse me / sorry
Ég heiti [yech-hate-ii] = My name is
Ég er frá [yech-err-frau] = I am from
Bandaríkjunum [Baanda-reek-yu-num] = USA
Bretlandi [Bret-landy] = England
There are some books and websites you can use. I have answered a few similar questions before. The most thorough free resource is Icelandic Online by the University of Iceland.
Gangi þér vel [gown-gee-thierr-vell] = Good luck
og góða ferð. [och-go-tha-ferrth] = and have a nice trip.