January 15, 2019

Icelandic: Don’t Worry – We can’t Pronounce it Either

Are you intimidated by the Icelandic language? Don’t worry, we are too, but don’t let it stop you from joining our Iceland Family Adventure!

Remember in 2010 when a glacier/volcano exploded, halting European air traffic with an enormous cloud of ash? There it was, Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano, at the top of the news for weeks, but who could pronounce it? In print it was often referred to as E15, saving writers lost time typing out all those letters.

So here you go, see if you can learn this: AY-yah-fyah-lah-YOH-kuul.

Now say it ten times, fast. Right.

Many sounds in Icelandic don’t even exist in English, so it is no wonder we are baffled by it. Imagine studying an itinerary where you can’t even imagine what the locations sound like! Or trying to keep straight who is who when ‘Mary Smithsdottir’ has children with last names Marysdottir and Marysson? Or how by changing just a few letters Seljalandsfoss the waterfall becomes Seljalandsá the river.

And not just sounds, but there are entire words and phrases that simply do not exist in English. We’d like to adopt the brilliant word Gluggaveður, literally translated to ‘window-weather’. It describes a beautiful day that is too cold to go out into. Or the phrase Þetta reddast which means ‘it will all work out OK’ but is used only when things aren’t going well at all.

How can you not love Iceland?

We can tell you their funny Þ letter is pronounced Th. And Ég is yeh. Hv is Kv. And almost always the first syllable is the one stressed. After that, well, it’s over to you and your phonetic phrase book.

Luckily, we don’t expect you to be able to pronounce a single word, much less speak the language, before you visit Iceland. Most Icelanders speak English, and where they do not, our top-notch English-speaking guides have got you covered.

Just have fun with it. It’s all part of the adventure during your visit to Iceland!