Is Icelandic Hard To Learn

Is Icelandic hard to learn for English speakers?


Is Icelandic hard to learn? Listen to someone speaking Icelandic, and it probably sounds like a complex mixture of impossible sounds. However, the reality is tons of people learn Icelandic all the time, and it might not be as difficult as you’d think.

Compared to other Nordic languages, such as Danish, Icelandic has a fierce reputation for being overly complicated and nuanced. However, there are more difficult tongues out there. If you’re willing to put in the time and work, you should be able to learn Icelandic.

Today, we’re going to introduce you to Icelandic language basics, and attempt to answer the question “How hard is Icelandic?” once and for all.

Icelandic language difficulty: Is Icelandic hard to learn?

The question “How hard is it to learn Icelandic?” is a complex one, because it really depends on who you ask. For people in Scandinavian countries, learning Icelandic might not seem too complex, because there is some overlap with other Nordic languages.

However, learning Icelandic isn’t the same as discovering Danish and Swedish — which are very similar.

Compared to most Scandi tongues, Icelandic may give you a little more trouble. The language is ranked as one of the harder ones to learn, based on its complex grammar and archaic vocabulary rules. For many, the biggest challenges will revolve around things like pronunciation, and understanding conjugations.

Still, Icelandic isn’t the most difficult language to learn. If we look at the rankings produced by the US Foreign Service Institute, Icelandic is a category 4 language. The FSI’s rankings go from 1 (the easiest language to learn) all the way up to 5.

This suggests Icelandic is more difficult to learn than something like French, but it’s not as complex as something like Japanese.

Is Icelandic Hard To Learn

Icelandic language basics: The easy parts

Similar to most languages, some parts of learning Icelandic will be easier to grasp than others. First, it’s worth noting Icelandic comes from the Old Norse speaking Vikings. This makes the tongue a “North Germanic” option — similar to English.

The root of the language family for English speakers will be more or less the same — but the logic can be a little tough.

The alphabet when you learn Icelandic is relatively similar too. Icelandic uses basically the same alphabet and letters as English. Though there are some differences in the form of accents.

It’s also worth noting you’ll have plenty of support when you learn to speak Icelandic, providing you’re visiting the country to test your knowledge. The locals are extremely friendly and kind, and everyone is patient — so you can practice without feeling too under pressure.

In fact, we’d recommend taking a trip to Iceland every so often if you want to learn Icelandic. You’ll often find it’s much easier to discover the details of a language when you submerge yourself into the country and culture.

How hard is it to learn Icelandic? The tough parts

Deciding to learn Icelandic is a big task. Though there are simple aspects to it, Icelandic is considered one of the toughest languages for a good reason. Icelandic’s vocabulary is entirely unique, thanks to its isolated location on the world map.

There are only a handful of languages known for mixing with Icelandic over the years. This means there aren’t a lot of “loanwords” in the Icelandic vocabulary — or words similar to those you might have heard elsewhere.

Part of what makes Icelandic so individual as a language, is a movement from the 19th century, designed to return Icelandic to its official roots.

Icelanders wanted their tongue to be as poetic and different as possible, so they took the handful of loanwords they had from Danish and made them sound more Icelandic. Linguistic purism is still a common practice to a certain point.

One of the major concerns most people have with learning Icelandic, is the grammar. Discovering how to speak Icelandic can be particularly challenging when you’re encountering the grammar for the first time.

The same letters in the same word can have specific meanings depending on which set of letters, or which letter an inflection falls on.

Additionally, a simple word can be changed dramatically by the other terms surrounding it. On top of that, it’s worth noting the Icelandic language has a series of four different cases to learn.

There are irregular declensions, three voices, and sub-classes for nouns too. This is a lot to learn before you even get to the point of considering things like singular, possessive, and gender-based terms.

How long does it take to learn Icelandic?

If you’re asking the question “Is Icelandic hard to learn for English speakers?” you’re probably wondering how long you’re going to need to spend learning the tongue.

In general, there’s really no set rule for how long you need to take perfecting the language. The more time you spend working on grammar, pronunciation, and other elements, the better you’re going to sound.

If you’re hoping to get Icelandic language basics covered, to the point where you can speak to and understand most people in Iceland, the FSI suggest you’ll need around 1100 hours of study — or about 44 weeks.

If you want to actually live in Iceland, you’ll probably need a little longer than this. Fortunately, moving to Iceland means you’ll be surrounded by people to help you practice.

Here are some helpful tools to get you started:

Is Icelandic Hard To Learn

How hard is it to learn Icelandic?

Clearly, the answer to “Is Icelandic easy to learn?” will be a no for most people. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t improve your chances of picking up the language a little faster with the right strategy.

The dedication and effort you put into learning the language will make it easier for you to achieve your goals.

Here are some quick insights to simplify your learning experience:

Concentrate on regular learning

You’ll learn Icelandic a lot faster if you commit to practicing it on a consistent, daily basis. The more you work on language, grammar, and pronunciation, the more confidence you’ll develop, which will help you to keep striving for your next language goal.

Visit Iceland

As mentioned above, one of the best ways to learn a new language is to submerge yourself in it. Visiting Iceland and asking to practice your speaking with a local will help you to build your knowledge. Icelandic people are very friendly, so don’t worry.

Listen to Icelandic regularly

Listening to radio and TV shows from Iceland is a good way to expose yourself to Icelandic being used in a natural format. This can significantly improve your chances of picking up the tongue quickly.

Speak it more often

Speaking language rather than simply typing it is a good way to get your head around the way the grammar and the pronunciation works. If you want to actually speak Icelandic, you can’t rely on typing or writing alone.

Is it worth learning Icelandic?

The answer to this question really depends on you. If you’re wondering “Why learn Icelandic in the first place?” then you may not be the right person to start pursuing this particular academic achievement.

If all you want to do is learn another language, there are certainly easier options out there. However, if you want to move to Iceland, or you just appreciate the uniqueness of the country’s tongue, then learning Icelandic could be an amazing experience.

There are only around 350,000 people who speak Icelandic worldwide, which means fluency in this language will make you pretty unique. If you’re looking for a job in the Nordic region, you could even become a translator.

Of course, learning Icelandic can also look pretty good in any job interview, as it demonstrates your commitment to learning something difficult.

Keep in mind there are various benefits for learning any language in general. Teaching yourself a new language can help to raise your IQ and improve your memory. It’s a great way to fight back against the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s too.

Is Icelandic a dying language?

For the time being, Icelandic continues to be a consistent language and one which doesn’t seem like it’s going to die out any time soon. However, linguists have warned the language could be at risk of disappearing in modern society.

Many Icelandic people already speak English as their primary language. You may want to consider another language if you’re just looking for a Scandinavian tongue you’d feel comfortable speaking.

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Now read these:
How similar are the nordic languages?
Mastering the Danish language basics
Is Swedish hard for English speakers?
The basics of the Finnish language
Is Norwegian tough for English speakers?

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