Icelandic Culture
Practical info
26 July 2017

Do they speak English in Iceland?

We no speak English mjög good my friend.

Just kidding! Most of us speak it just fine. It may not be perfect and sometimes it’s spoken with a thick Nordic accent. But most Icelanders speak fluent English.

But really, do they speak English in Iceland?

  • Yes, almost everyone does.

You might meet an Icelander who’s too shy to speak English, and admittedly, a few people simply don’t know it. But 99% of the younger generation speak good English, and we would guess around 90% of people under 70 can manage to hold a simple conversation or give directions. So, don’t be afraid to start talking to an Icelander in English if you need anything.

Do they speak English at restaurants and hotels in Iceland?

Yes, we’re pretty sure it’s an absolute requirement for restaurant and hotel staff to speak English nowadays.

But why do Icelanders speak good English?  

We start learning English at a young age in school. But by that time, most kids already know a lot of English words and can even hold a conversation in English. For the 80’s kids (who are now getting close to being middle aged even if they won’t admit it) it’s probably because cartoons, TV shows and movies weren’t dubbed in Icelandic. Nowadays, on the national TV channels, cartoons are dubbed, but TV shows and movies are not. Our English skills will probably improve even more in coming years since kids watch a lot of videos, play games etc. in English online.

We need to protect the Icelandic language

Many Icelanders fear that the Icelandic language will be lost eventually and English will take over. It’s true that English words have been sneaking into our vocabulary at a faster pace with the development of the internet. But we love our language very much and usually try to find or make up Icelandic translations for them.