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.
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!