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Resources to Learn Icelandic


My family is planning two weeks in Iceland over the summer, and I'd love to learn to speak the language a bit- I lived in Germany for a year and immersing myself through language was one of the best experiences in my life.

So, what's the best way?

Thanks in advance for any guidance!

Posted by
993 posts

Search Amazon for a book that teaches Icelandic and/or an icelandic phrasebook. Figure out the phonology: the sound inventory and the sound pattern, how to pronounce the sounds that are not in English, the rules for how the phonemes are sounded depending on the neighboring sounds. Phonology is a major part of languages I didn't know exists until my first phonology class in college. Previously, I naievely assumed foreign languages should be pronounced with the sounds and sound pattern of my English speech, because I didn't know any better.

Posted by
84 posts

I've been using the Doulingo app to learn a little Greek before our trip in April. It is a fun way to start learning a new language!

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks Mike.

There are so many books that I was hoping to save some time by getting specific recommendations from someone who's already found a good one, or a website or app where I can actually hear.

Reading the internet can be a significant waste of time I've found :-)

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks lken56.

Fun story- Duolingo does not have Icelandic. I found a forum discussion where a person bemoans the fact that Duolingo has Klingon (a fake language from Star Trek), but not Icelandic.

Posted by
15551 posts

Icelandic is a very difficult language pronunciation wise for English speakers. I tried to learn before my first trip to Iceland. Fortunately, on that trip, I learned that most people in Iceland speak English or at least some.

I've been to Iceland a few times and never had a problem communicating.

Sorry I can't be of more help but good luck.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks Frank II.

I just want to learn as much as I can because it was so much fun when I was in Germany, where they also speak English. I just think it breaks down barriers when you're speaking the native language, or at least trying.

Posted by
27352 posts

By all accounts Icelandic is very difficult. Unlike most other European languages, it seems to have retained most of the complexities of its forefather, Old Norse; isolation can do that to a language, I guess. I can only wish you good luck.

The Wikipedia entry will give you an idea of the scope of the task:

Posted by
6545 posts

I speak a bit of Icelandic and it might not be the easiest language to learn, but not that hard as you might think. A good start can be

If you speak German you will have a bit of a head start since you will recognize several grammatical rules that English dropped centuries ago. Another thing that will make it a bit harder is their attitude to loanwords. While many modern words are more or less the same in many languages, such as electricity, telephone or helicopter, in Icelandic they create new words instead. So while in Swedish it is elektricitet, telefon and helikopter, in Icelandic it is rafmagn, sími and þyrla.


Posted by
2146 posts

Badger--Thank you for that link. We are headed back on our 3rd trip in aa couple of days, so not enough time to learn it for this trip but will definitely look into it for later.

Posted by
707 posts

On our recent trip to Iceland we learned "please" and "thank you", as those phrases are always appreciated. We spent time talking with the guesthouse hosts or hotel receptionists and asking them how to pronounce certain words. Hearing from a native speaker was fun and we got to share some Hawaiian words with them. Like the fish humuhumunukunukuapuaʻa LOL

Posted by
2463 posts

They all speak English. Except for hello, please, thank you, you are wasting your time

Posted by
4606 posts

They all speak English

This is the truth, often spoken about European countries when it isn't true. And it's easier to communicate with Icelanders than a lot of so-called English-speaking people in the UK.

If anyone knows the reason that Icelandic, Greek, and English are the only European languages with the TH sound I would like to hear it.

Posted by
4606 posts

Yes, I had forgotten the Bar-tha-loan-ah and Thee-oo-dahd pronunciations of some Spaniards but never New World Spanish speakers, at least that I have come across. Thanks.

I have a lot of experience with Scandinavians and the TH sound, many unable to make the sound even after 70 years residing in the US. Common sense would imply that the sound once existed in Scandinavian languages as in Icelandic now, but was lost for some reason, i.e. Thor in English and Icelandic with the TH sound would have once been pronounced the same way in Scandinavia.

Albanian I have never heard.

Posted by
1 posts

I’ve been learning Icelandic on and off for about about a year - for English speakers the grammar is a bit daunting but I can understand the gist of written Icelandic now and I’m hoping when I visit this year I’ll be able to have some conversations if I can overcome my stereotypical British fear of talking in a language other than English!

Free resources I’ve used

The YouTube channel “Icelandic for Foreigners” has lots of videos about grammar. Start with the pronunciation ones for each letter. The others are handy when you know a bit more about the language.

The University of Iceland has free online courses - search for “Icelandic Online”. These are all in Icelandic but do listening, reading and writing up to an advanced level. Took me a few goes to get started with them but they are useful.

A lecturer who has taught Icelandic in the UK recorded tutorials and you can listen to the mp3s. search for “Alaric Hall Icelandic” and his website should come up. There is also a link to the language site Memrise where Alaric has put the vocabulary from the recordings. I found these great as you’re learning in real time with Rachael and Ben!

I also did some other courses on Memrise for vocab but there isn’t much audio and I’ve just started using the Drops language app as it does have audio and quite a lot of vocab and short phrase content. Although you can only do 5 minutes per day free so I bought a year pass (about $35 USD)

Gjörðu svo vel as they say in Iceland!

Posted by
46 posts has an Icelandic course, if you want to just dive into the deep end/get the language in your ear. It is free, there's a lot of audio & you focus on learning vocabulary through sentences. The website offers more practical words & phrases for visitors (I think you pay to subscribe per language). Lonely Planet publishes a phrasebook Fast Talk Icelandic designed to get you speaking in a brief amount of time. It is very small/skinny, but cheap & portable. Colloquial Icelandic by Daisy Neijmann is user-friendly course book. It has free companion audio files online.