What Language Is Spoken In Iceland?

What Language Is Spoken In Iceland?

Do you know what language is spoken in Iceland?

No, it isn’t English, even though they speak it quite well.

 

The official language of Iceland is Icelandic.

 

Iceland is a small country in the middle of the Atlantic ocean with Icelandic as the official language.

There are around 350,000 speakers of the Icelandic language. It is less than 0.005% of the world’s population.

Compared to the world’s largest language, Icelandic surely isn’t one of the most spoken languages in the world.

However, this language has always been not only in the center of linguistic attention but in the center of interest of other people.

 

In this article, you’ll find out why Icelandic is so irresistible and what language is spoken in Iceland besides Icelandic.

You might also seriously consider starting to learn Icelandic.

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The Land of Ice And Fire

Perhaps you heard of the ‘Land of Ice and Fire’ in some other contexts but this connotation is related to Iceland’s natural wonders.

It’s known for its beautiful glaciers, lava fields, and volcanoes. Iceland is a country of extreme geological contrasts and the most west European country.

It is also the best country to see the magnificent Northern Lights.

The capital city, Reykjavik, is also the home of the most Icelandic population.

The country made a huge effort to stay as it was from the beginning, fought bravely to save their language, and to become an independent, modern republic.

 

The Origin Of The Icelandic Language

Icelandic belongs to the Indo-European language family, the North Germanic branch along with Norwegian, Faroese, Norn, and Greenlandic Norse.

Even though they belong to the same branch, Icelandic is much more similar to Faroese than to Norwegian.

However, as much as it’s similar to other North Germanic languages, Icelandic behaves as an isolate, which it isn’t.

To understand this completely, we are going to take a history lesson.

If we go back to the beginnings of the Middle Ages, that was a period when Iceland was settled, precisely in the 9th and 10th centuries. Scandinavian Vikings found their new home.

Norwegian stayed where it was, Swedish and Danish started to change a bit, while Icelandic remained the same.

Yes, Icelandic remained the same language until the 19th century when Danish rule threatened their integrity. From that time, Iceland was under Danish rule. However, today Danish is one of the minority languages.

 

How To Speak Icelandic

Not many languages in the world can say that they survived many centuries unchanged, especially under the influence of other nations.

Icelandic is one of the languages that remained pure, without the interference of other languages. For example, people can easily, or with very little difficulty, read and understand scripts that are hundreds of years old.

Maybe that is one of the reasons why all around the world people are fascinated by this language.

Some would say that Icelandic is very difficult to learn and it should be listed among the hardest languages to learn. Some claim that because of the Icelandic alphabet, others because of Icelandic phrases, etc. Icelanders usually tend to form new words rather than to borrow from foreign languages. All of these reasons may classify Icelandic among hard ones. 

Don’t be discouraged by this because language difficulty is different for everyone and depends on many factors.

 

Languages Spoken In Iceland

For now, it is pretty clear that Icelandic is the official language in Iceland.

With a population of approximately 330,000, around 93% speak Icelandic as their first language.

 

In 2011, Icelandic Sign Language, the language for deaf people, became another language recognized by the law. 

 

As for the English language, it is compulsory in schools. Therefore, almost every Icelander speaks English. According to WorldAtlas, more people speak English than Danish.

 

And, let’s not forget to mention the Danish language since the Danish reign in Iceland lasted until the 19th century. Danish is spoken in Iceland, but there are ‘only’ around  1.000 speakers. One more thing that shows how Iceland is a civilized and multicultural country is that Danish is also taught in schools. 

 

Here are all the languages that are spoken in Iceland:

  • Icelandic, the official language of Iceland
  • English
  • Danish
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Polish
  • Lithuanian

Fun Facts about Iceland

Even though pretty small, Iceland is an amusing country with many fun facts. Let’s take a look at some of them:

  • Although Icelandic has been the national language for a long time, it became official in 2011.
  • Even though many consider that the history of Iceland started in the 9th century when Vikings settled on their grounds, there is evidence that way before Vikings, Gaelic monks lived in Iceland.
  • The same dialect is spoken for hundreds of years. Great effort has been made to preserve the language, so, today, many Icelanders can read and understand Sagas, texts from the 12th century. 
  • Icelanders rarely have surnames. The father’s first name is the base for the child’s last name. For example, Kjartan Thorirsson, has two children, a girl Hrefna, and a boy Finnur. Their ‘full’ names would be ‘Hrefna Kjartandóttir’ and ‘Finnur Kjartansson,’ which can be translated as ‘daughter of Kjartan’ and ‘son of Kjartan.’
  • When the baby is born, he or she doesn’t get the name right away. Parents wait for a while to see how the baby’s personality develops. Until they decide his or her name, they call the baby Stúlka if it is a girl or Drengur, if it is a boy.
  • As we mentioned in the previous lines, Icelandic tends to make up new words for new terms rather than to borrow from foreign languages. Therefore, the word ‘computer’ gave a little bit of headache to the linguists. The new term for the word ‘computer’ is ‘tölva.’ The word is a combination of ‘tala,’ which means ‘number,’ and ‘völva,’ in the meaning of ‘a witch or female fortune-teller.’ So, for Icelanders, the computer is a witch of numbers.

 

Final Thoughts

Now you understand the beauty of Iceland and its language.

We hope you got intrigued by it and that you’ll try learning it. 

You may even plan to travel over there and meet their culture.

 

As we already mentioned, they are fluent in several more languages. And that makes this country pretty fascinating and unique.

Do people in Iceland speak English?

English is taught in schools as second language so a lot of people in Iceland know it and speak it fluently.

Is Icelandic language hard to learn?

Icelandic is hard. It's considered one of the hardest languages in the world.

Is Icelandic a dying language?

It's considered to be dying due to technology and social media. Only 340,000 people speak Icelandic.

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