Practical info
9 February 2018

Icelandic for Dummies

So, Icelandic. The language that has hardly changed in over 1000 years and is basically Old Norse and looks like someone just wrote something or anything on their keyboard.

How can anyone learn it?

Learn Icelandic

It really isn‘t that difficult. Despite sometimes overly complicated declension by case and oh, all the exceptions to the rule, the language is actually pretty descriptive.

Like, look at the Icelandic word for rhinoceros: Nashyrningur. It literally means Nose Horned. And a bat is leðurblaka which literally means leather flap. And porcupine is puntsvín which literally means decoration swine… no, wait. That does not make much sense.

Where are you?

Ok, so, not everything is descriptive. However, by knowing a few Icelandic words, you will understand quite a bit when driving around Iceland and you can show off to your friends.

Like the word foss, that means waterfall. Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, Dettifoss, all famous waterfalls. So, you will always know when something is a waterfall, except when it is Dynjandi.

Jökull is another handy word. It means glacier. Eyjafjallajökull, Mýrdalsjökull, Vatnajökull, all famous glaciers. So, again, you will know when someone is talking about glaciers. Except when it is Ok.

Eldfjall or fire mountains is a bit harder. It means a volcano, but no volcano in Iceland has “eldfjall” in its name.

Bær means town, vík is bay and eyri is sandbank. Most towns in Iceland are named after where they are situated. Reykjavík is Smokey Bay, Akureyri is Field Sandbank, Hafnarfjörður is Harbour Fjord and so on.

How are you?

What about greetings? Halló and bæ (hello/bye) is quite all right, but góðan dag (gothan dag) meaning good day is very good to know.

Do not worry about sounding impolite. If you know the above, you are all set. Icelanders do not have an equivalent of “please” except when you are offering someone something, that is gerðu svo vel (do so well – pronounced: ger-thu svo vel).

Other phrases good to know:

Thanks / thank you: Takk / takk fyrir (tak / tak firir)

Where is the bathroom?: Hvar er klósettið? (Kvar air closet-ith?)

Do you speak English?: Talarðu ensku? (Talar-thu ensku?)

I don’t speak Icelandic: Ég tala ekki íslensku (Yeg tala eki ees-lensku)

Help: Hjálp (hy-owlp – “ow” as in down)

Sorry, excuse me, I’m sorry: Fyrirgefðu (firir-gef-thu)

 

If you memorize this, you cannot fail!