9 Reasons to Learn Icelandic


I’d just started my first job with a salary. Whaaa?! Not just a wage! A salary?! Every evening I’d come home and open the same book, ‘Europe on a Shoestring’, and plan out where I’d be spending this thing I’d suddenly been given called ‘holiday time’. Iceland was top of the list. (Shoestring? Ha!)

It took me a long time to actually get there and it wasn’t until almost 10 years and many other countries later that I ventured to the land of ice and fire, and of course, had to learn a little Icelandic for the trip. This is my Icelandic story.

Icelandic is a language spoken by 330,000 people. So why learn Icelandic? Here's 9 reasons to learn Icelandic and my story of learning a bit of the lingo...

Your free Icelandic travel phrases

If you’re curious to find out more about this mysterious language, get started with your free travel phrases. Woop! Just click the image below to download.

What did I know about Icelandic before?

I knew that it was a Germanic language but that it was probably distantly related, which I guessed based on geography.

I knew that it often gets “a look” when people say they speak it. (You know the look I mean – the eyebrows raise, the eyes widen, the “wow” comes out the mouth…)

I knew it had a couple of funny-looking letters that sound in some way like “th”.

That’s pretty much it.

What did I use to learn Icelandic?

Memrise is normally my starting point with any new language, and Icelandic was no different. I found a couple of basic/traveller courses there and picked one after a quick look at the words and phrases included in each level. In the end, I chose this one, which I worked on for 6 weeks or so before my trip and finished off on the plane.

I also wanted something more and Google soon led me to Icelandic Online. I stuck with the introductory course, which was great because although some of the activities were a bit glitchy, it has videos with real-speed conversations.

As well as my two staples, I also had a Spotify playlist that I created (mostly from clicking through ‘related artists’) and a TV series, Nรฆturvaktin, that my friend lent me not long before my trip.

What was Iceland like?

I don’t really know where to begin. Iceland is INSANE. It’s one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever been to. I’ll let the images speak for themselves…

Icelandic is a language spoken by 330,000 people. So why learn Icelandic? Here's 9 reasons to learn Icelandic and my story of learning a bit of the lingo...
Icelandic is a language spoken by 330,000 people. So why learn Icelandic? Here's 9 reasons to learn Icelandic and my story of learning a bit of the lingo...
Icelandic is a language spoken by 330,000 people. So why learn Icelandic? Here's 9 reasons to learn Icelandic and my story of learning a bit of the lingo...
Icelandic is a language spoken by 330,000 people. So why learn Icelandic? Here's 9 reasons to learn Icelandic and my story of learning a bit of the lingo...
Icelandic is a language spoken by 330,000 people. So why learn Icelandic? Here's 9 reasons to learn Icelandic and my story of learning a bit of the lingo...

How much Icelandic did I speak?

Hmm…not so much. Most people in Iceland speak a reasonable amount of English and most of our trip we were driving across the country with…well, not so many people around!

But one reason I love to learn a little language before travel is for understanding the world around me, and for that, what I learnt in Icelandic definitely helped. I’ve compiled some of my favourite examples in this video, Learning Icelandic In Iceland.

9 Reasons to Learn Icelandic

Curious? If you want to know more, I felt so inspired by my time with the language that I made a 9 Reasons video! Woop! (Two videos in one week?! Yes indeedy.)

Are you learning Icelandic? Have you been to Iceland? What sparked your curiosity for the language? Share in the comments!

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About Lindsay Dow

Why hello there! I'm Lindsay and I do Languages. I blog, vlog and teach all things language. I blog about languages right here at Lindsay Does Languages, and about travel over at Mundo Trundle. If you're looking for language learning inspiration then stay a while. You might find just what you're looking for. :)
  • Nina

    Wonderful post! I’ll bookmark it for a future reference. I have other languages in my current plan, but I will *definitively* learn Icelandic one day, and I think it will not be in too distant future! And go to Iceland, of course. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Dorothรฉe

    Nice photos Lindsay! Thanks!
    I will listen to Amabadama!!

  • Julia Reed

    Such a great post, Lindsay! Nature is just breathtaking, I have never been to this beautiful country, but it’s obvious after seeing those photos ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing!

    By the way, is it difficult to learn Icelandic if the German language is already mastered? ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Thanks Julia! I would say that German would help but it’s not as similar as Spanish and Portuguese for example ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Cathy Lea Clements

    Great videos. Thanks. I’ve been learning Icelandic for a week. I always thought it would be a wonderful place to visit then recently I discovered Arstidir, an Icelandic folk band and I was blown away by their sound and the beauty of the language. I’m terrible at language but I have to give it a go. I did the usual French and German at school, they didn’t stick. A few years ago I did 4 years of Russian and I can still only say I love something or that I can’t speak Russian, LOL. I tried a bit of Spanish on holiday and ended up mashing all above languages together, till a confused waitress had to ask where I was from. I am no natural but for some reason I am compelled to learn, successful or not. I am best at understanding the written word, and writing, as I can take my time. I have a bad ear for words, I find myself trying to imagine the word written to identify it, by the time I’ve recognised it, the sentence is finished. I’m using Colloquial Icelandic which has loads of audio files and I’m hoping that constantly replaying dialogues will help as I’ve never had audio resources before. Also playing Arstidir and singing with thd lyric sheet to aid pronunciation. Thanks for this community Lindsay, I value your motivation.

    • Hello Cathy! Thank you for such a lovely comment! ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s so interesting (and relatable) to read your story about school languages. And I know what you mean about listening – I find myself remembering much more when I read and listen at the same time, and I love writing too! In 2014, I did a thing here on the blog called the Language Script Challenge, where I basically took a little look at learning different scripts and writing systems. It was so interesting! ๐Ÿ˜€