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Redfishvanish's avatar

Is it easy or difficult to learn the Icelandic language?

Asked by Redfishvanish (125 points ) January 19th, 2008

I’m interested in learning. Also, any suggestions of a good school, book, etc. would be appreciated.

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12 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Here’s a wonderful short poem by Bill Holm (who lived in Iceland) called:

The Icelandic Language

gailcalled's avatar

Icelandic phrases

It looks like a difficult language to pronouce:

However, apparently, “Svifnökkvinn minn er fullur af álum” means “My hovercraft is full of eels. (Not j/k)

gailcalled's avatar

Original joke from Monty Python; translated into over 50 languages. Straying from topic, I know. Sorry but too funny.

My hovercraft is full of eels

zina's avatar

practice by listening to some of Björk’s songs (the ones that are in Iceladic) ! =)

christybird's avatar

It depends on if you already speak a Germanic language. If you already have mastered Danish and Norwegian, I imagine it would be pretty easy. Otherwise, you might have to work a bit.

DryaUnda's avatar

When watching the documentary Brainman, about high-functioning savant Daniel Tammit, one of the things mentioned was how amazing his learning Icelandic in a week was, and the said language was notably difficult. That’s all I know about Icelandic.

Zaku's avatar

Icelandic is closely related to Norwegian, which is closely related to Swedish and Danish. My direct experience is with learning Swedish as a native English speaker who has also studied several Romance languages and some German. Swedish was very, very easy for me to learn, compared to the Romance languages and German, because Swedish is like English in that the word order conveys meaning rather than changing the forms of the words, and it does it in almost the same way as English, perhaps even simpler and without all the weird exceptions, so it was almost just like learning new vocabulary and pronunciation rules (which sound foreign (e.g. sj ~= wh), but are straightforward and consistent). Swedish has been by far the easiest language I’ve tried to learn. I think Icelandic might be a little harder because I think it’s like Old Norse, though, but still, probably relatively easy coming from English, I imagine.

Redfishvanish's avatar

I’ve read that if I know English and Danish, I’ll be able to converse with 90% of the folks in Iceland. Then again, that same article claimed that the Icelandic people see the Danish language as “Scandinavian.” Any thoughts or confirmations on this?

Zaku's avatar

Yes. And not so bad even without Danish since, as I described above, Scandinavian languages are very similar to English, it’s about as easy for Scandinavians to learn English as vice versa, except of course it’s far more common for them to do it than vice versa, so although they tend to be thrilled if you learn their language, most people (at least in Norway and Sweden) can understand and speak English pretty well.

Hobosnake's avatar

Supposedly a Savant who could learn any language within a week or two was challenged to learn Icelandic in a week. Icelandic was chosen due to being one of the hardest languages to learn, so I’d imagine it’s no walk in the park. He managed to pull it off though… amazing what God can do with epilepsy.

jennylar's avatar

Zaku.. As an Icelandic person who speaks of course Icelandic, English and Danish(Scandinavian (yes, we do call it that Redfishvanish)) I can confirm that Scandinavian languages aren’t similar to English, now I am studying Italian and I think actually that Italian is more similar to English than Scandanavian languages.. The reason for our good English in North Europe is that we don’t translate the movies and the television shows from England and USA into our own language for some reason (maybe because the population is not so much), so I am 99% sure that it is the reason for our English.
Icelandic has some similarities to Danish, Swedish and Norwegian but still, very different. It’s most similar to the language from Faore Islands. But it’s hard to learn our language because we have a lot of grammar rules. And what is the hardest about the language is the pronunciation. hehe, try to pronoun the word EYJARFJALLAJÖKULL. but you have likely all ready learned the language now first you wrote this 2008.. but it surpirses me that someone is interested to learn Icelandic, because it’s not that useful to be able to speak it.

spittingblaze's avatar

I think learning any language depends on your ability or belief that you can learn another language, belief that your second or third language- I think at least for me I have to believe that languages are sort of different parts of my brain. I fear I might mix it all up. If you have ideas that any language is easy to learn and that maybe you’re good at learning languages, maybe if you belief something is easy to learn it’s easier and if you belief it’s hard it’s harder.
Just try to approach it as if you were a baby consuming a new language or your native language and maybe it will be easier. I think you have to believe you can learn a language for it to be somewhat easy. I could be entirely wrong too.

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