Friday, 18 February 2011

Góðan daginn, hvað segir þú?

 We have been told at Icelandic class that there are no less than 36 different nationalities living in this little town of Sauðárkrókur.  Our class comprises of students of 6 nationalities, Brazilian, French, Polish, Latvian, Scottish and of course Australian, fortunately English on some level is common to all.  I enjoy the class, it is quite laid back and relaxed, no pressure...everyone will pick up the language at their own pace, some faster than others, many already speak several languages.  Our teacher is easy going and quite humorous...and she lets us in on some of the Icelandic idiosyncrasy's which make up cultural life. 

Ross and I attend this class twice a week for an approximate 8-10 weeks,  I think we are roughly halfway through.

Ross is far better than I at this...I admit I struggle and it will probably take me longer than most.  I think the fact that I am on my own a lot, just beavering away in the Gamla Pósthús (Old Post Office) probably does not help.  However I do notice that words are slowly sinking in and in time I will get there...I am too stubborn to not.  I make myself watch the news to try and pick up words and all the English speaking shows have Icelandic subtitles...I do much better with the written word than with hearing the language as Icelanders tend to half swallow some of the words or merge them into one which makes it extra difficult for the novice...I expect after sometime my hearing will tune into the sounds more. The TV helps as most news readers and announcers speak clearly.  I am also doing Icelandic Online a free online language class from the University of work through each section at your own pace...I need all the help I can get!  Anyone, anywhere can do this course so if you want to learn a little bit of Icelandic check it out.

Icelandic does not translate to English straightforwardly and you tend to have to work out the gist of what is being said...for instance góðan daginn, hvað segir þú? means good day, how are you? but literally translates to good day, what say you? They also join words together rather than creating new words for example ís means ice and skápur means cupboard but ísskápur means refrigerator and elda means cook and vél means machine so eldavél is stove.

Most people here speak some level of English so making yourself understood is not too hard, however in social circumstances everyone speaks Icelandic so to be able to interact you do need to have some grasp of the language.

November 16th is Icelandic Language Day, dagur íslenskrar tungu (day of the Icelandic tongue) and has been celebrated for the last 15 years.  It focuses on the beauty of the language and the threat to it from outside...such as American colloquialisms.  The day is mainly aimed at young people/teenagers who are particularly influenced by overseas slang, schools present special programs celebrating the language and students are encouraged to drop the imported words for at least that day. The little video below highlights this do not need to understand Icelandic to get the idea...enjoy!


  1. yeh, we have been far too slack - we need to include Icelandic with every meal! Annað kvöld er lamba læri og ég vonast til að þú komir og snæðir með okkur. Having done that I realise that my written Icelandic is crap... Anywho, commenting on blogs is a good a place as any to invite you over for dinner for a leg of the lamb!