Why Learn Icelandic?

Why Icelandic? Why not German or Spanish?

Those were the first words to come out of my mother’s mouth as I announced her my resolution to start learning Icelandic.

Learning a language takes time! Are you sure you want to put hundreds of hours learning such a useless language?

I could understand her surprised reaction. My decision was very sudden: only a few days ago, I would never have thought myself that I would invest so much time and energy learning a foreign language, let alone Icelandic.

I was 17 at the time, and I recently had abandoned my dream to become a musician. I no longer studied jazz guitar at college or composed on my own, and I had stopped practising scales and arpeggios. I had wanted to earn a living through music for several years, but for some unknown reason, my enthusiasm had waned. I was left there with no long-term purpose in life; the passion that had carried me through so many years had suddenly deserted me. I needed a new project to hang on to.

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A few months ago, I had discovered Björk. I instantly became a huge fan of her music and I started to watch her interviews on YouTube. She often talked about Iceland, its landscapes, its people and its culture. I remember the exact moment I decided to learn Icelandic: I was listening to Björk speaking about her home country. She was talking about the long, cold and dark Icelandic winters. I started imagining myself living in a small Icelandic house surrounded by lofty mountains and the sea, reading books and letting my thoughts wander. I suddently felt a very strong bond with the country. I wanted change in my life, and learning Icelandic just seemed like the right thing to do.

So, why should I learn Icelandic?

I surmise that most people reading this blog are already interested in learning Icelandic. Some may have an Icelandic spouse, some may live in Iceland, and some may simply be fascinated by Icelandic culture. Here are a few reasons people should start learning Icelandic:

  • A fascinating language: intricate grammar and beautiful words make the learning process fun in itself.
  • Wonderful music: Yes, Björk sings in English, but knowing Icelandic has made me discover awesome music with beautiful lyrics. I particularly like Árstíðir.
  • Great literature : Iceland has a very rich literary culture. The sagas, Jónas Hallgrímsson, Jon Thoroddsen, Halldór Laxness, Arnaldur Indriðason, etc. all give you thousands and thousands of pages of great literature and are of course better experienced in the original language. Here are two posts about some truly fascinating Icelandic books.
  • Friendly people : Icelanders take great pride in their language, and they are always pleased to see a foreigner putting time and energy into learning it.
  • It’s good for you: Learning Icelandic is a challenge and makes learning other languages easier (or seem easier :-)). You’ll also feel very proud when you have your first conversation or read your first book. Last but not least, you’ll get to tell people you speak Icelandic and, let’s admit it, that’s pretty cool!
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11 thoughts on “Why Learn Icelandic?

  1. Pingback: [PDF] Alexander McFadden, Testamentary Trust – The Philadelphia Courts | Law Century

  2. It’s rather funny, buy I started to learn Icelandic because of music too, in ny case because of sigur ros…they just sounded to me like magic, and I wanted to know what they say and what is that land that is expressed in their songs. That was like years ago, but since I am studying in Germany now (I am from Spain) and everything is a bit more similar, I feel myself encouraged to go on with it (I use Icelandic university ‘s website), do you something like easy lectures \ readings in Icelandic? Saell!

    • Hi! If you’re at an intermediate level, I suggest you have a look at my recent video on resources for intermediate learners of Icelandic. I’m also soon going to write a post about how I went about learning the language from scratch. I recently read two children’s books in Icelandic: Harry Potter and The Golden Compass. Children’s literature (if you like it of course) is really a great way to learn a language!

  3. Great post!! Yeah, the beginning scenario dawned on me EXACTLY and I kind of asked myself the same question afterwards. Your post answers to that!!

  4. Well, I remember when I decided to study German in high school and my father said I must be a Nazi. Parents will nitpick whatever you choose.

  5. Hi! When I was young, I had a passion for Japanese, and even went as far as to teach myself Japanese. When I was 17, the same thing happened to me; I wanted to learn Icelandic. When I taught myself Japanese, I don’t just learn the language, I study and learn the culture, their customs, their quirks, the whole bit! And as I did so with Icelandic, I fell even more so in love.

    But, unlike Japanese, Icelandic have some interesting pronunciations that make it hard for me to grasp, especially when every learning site and app are robotic voices- making it near impossible for me to pronounce words correctly.

    Do you have any tips? Any good apps or sites that could help in the learning? Or is the language something you’d need to go to Iceland yourself to learn properly? Any pointers would be a huge help!

    • Hi Alexandria! If you want to hear Icelandic words pronounced by natives instead of a robot, I recommend forvo.com. You can definitely learn Icelandic to a high intermediate level without visiting the country, thanks to all the resources you can find on the internet. Are you a beginner?

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