What Language is Spoken in Iceland?

What Language is Spoken in Iceland?

Text by: Guillaume​
Travel Writer, photographer and Guide!

Does Iceland have a language? What Language do they speak in Iceland? Do people in Iceland speak English? 

If you're asking yourself some of these questions then you're not alone!

Indeed, these are some of the most researched questions about Iceland on the Internet and there seems to be very little information about it.

But don't worry, this article will be your guide to these questions. And you can visit Iceland and know exactly how to communicate with the locals! 

Here is what you will find in this post about the Icelandic language:

  • What is the official language in Iceland?
  • About the Icelandic Language
  • Do people in Iceland speak English?
  • Learn some basics in Icelandic!

What is the official language
in Iceland? 

Iceland is a small country with a tiny population. Located in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, totally isolated from the rest of the world. Iceland has recently become a world phenomena, and is rapidly rising in popularity with its recent boom in tourism, being a hot location for shooting Hollywood movies and of course, the recent underdog success of the Icelandic men's football team!

Now that people from all over the world are visiting Iceland, Iceland is becoming a very popular search term on google.

And we have noticed that some of the most searched questions are concerning the Icelandic language. Indeed, it seems that not many people know anything about what language is spoken here in Iceland, where it comes from and how it sounds!

Well, let us just start off by saying that the official  language in Iceland is Icelandic.


All Icelandic people in Iceland speak Icelandic. 

Everyone speaks Icelandic. Schools teach in Icelandic, television is in Icelandic, radio and advertising is in Icelandic ... almost everything is in Icelandic in Iceland!

Icelandic crowd during the fifa world cup

How many people speak Icelandic in the world?

​The total population of the Icelandic nation is 357.000 people, in January 2019. Therefore, we can estimate that roughly 360.000 people in the world speak Icelandic.

It is of course difficult to get the exact figures of the total number of people who speak Icelandic in the world.

​And as you might learn when visiting Iceland, the language is extremely different from most other languages ... and it is very difficult to learn. However, there are people all over the world that get fascinated by our language and start learning it. Therefore, it is impossible to get the exact figure.

But as you can probably imagine, Icelandic is not widely spoken. ​

Hallgrimskirkja church things to do in Reykjavik

Icelandic: Where does it come from?

For the most part of the history of Iceland, we remained a very isolated country. And for that reason, our language, Icelandic, was protected extremely well and got little or no influence from other languages for almost a thousand years. For that reason, Icelandic children can today, read scripts that are hundreds years old with little difficulty. 

Icelandic is a North Germanic language and more specifically derived from the Old Norse language which was spoken across Scandinavia ​during the Viking rule from the 9th to the 13th Century. 

The first settlements of Iceland originally came from Norse speaking Norwegians Vikings.

The Icelandic language remained almost untouched for thousand years. Although Icelandic has changed a little bit over the years, (specially in recent years) it is the closest still-spoken language to Old Norse, and Icelandic people can easily read and understand old Norse literature such as the Sagas dating back to the 10th Century!

In highlight:

  • The official language in Iceland is Icelandic
  • There are about 360.000 people who speak Icelandic world-wide
  • The language has not changed much since Iceland's settlement, approx. year 870-874.
  • Icelandic is the most similar language to Old Norse!​
  • Icelandic is, in a way, the language of Vikings!
  • August in Iceland Northern Lights

Unbelievably beautiful? Check out the Snaefellsnes Peninsula Tour! You won't be disappointed!


Do people in Iceland
speak English?

Throughout history, Iceland has always been a very secluded and isolated country, but that sure is not the case anymore!

Iceland today is international, very up-to date and highly civilised. Here you will find a fantastic blend of national culture and international culture.

Almost every single Icelander speaks English. And the younger generations, many are as fluent in English as in their mother language!

With international pop-culture being very fashionable in Iceland combined with Icelanders' love for American/English movies and music, English is a widely spoken language by most!

​There are older generations who do not speak English as well because they were never subject to it. However, with the rise in technology through social media, video streaming, and countless international media platforms, most young generations and kids in Iceland are being introduced to English at a very young age which is also encouraged within the school system where all children have to learn English as part of their curriculum.

So, if you are worried about not being able to communicate if you come to Iceland, fear not, it is very unlikely that you will come across anyone that doesn't speak English.

Do you want to learn more?
And do you want to get to know some locals in Iceland?

My #1 recommendation is to join the Reykjavik Food Walk. There you will meet a local legend that will show you his/hers favourite parts of Reykjavik, answer all your strangest questions and introduce you to the best of Icelandic food. 

You can learn more about the Reykjavik Food Walk here.


Do you want to meet with local Icelandic people?

There is no better way to experience a country than by meeting local people and sharing stories! So why not come with us on a Reykjavik Bar Crawl? We'll take you to the best bars and clubs where the locals go!


Learn a few basics in Icelandic!

So you're coming to Iceland for a few days? Well, why not learn a few basics in Icelandic that you can try out when you meet some locals? It's a great conversation starter, and there is nothing nicer than to hear other people trying to speak the local language!

But before we teach you a few things, you might want to know what Icelandic sounds like... Check out this famous video of the Icelandic football commentator back when Iceland beat England!​

Obviously, not all Icelanders sound this excited and happy all the time but you get the idea! 

Now it's time for you to have a go with these basic Icelandic words and Phrases! As you know, Icelandic also have some letters which might look strange to you, so to help you learn these phrases, we'll put a little guide as to how to pronounce the letters you might not be familiar with!

Þ þ


Like "th" in "thing" (never occurs at the end of a word).

Ð ð


Like "th" in "that", (only occurs in word middle and word end).

Ö ö


(Short) like "ur" in "fur" but shorter, (long) like "ur" in "fur"

Æ æ


Like "i" in "mile".

É é


Like "ye" in "yes".

English 

Icelandic

Hello!

Góðan daginn! / ​Halló!

Good Evening!

Gott kvöld!

Good Night!

Góða nótt!

Thank you!

takk!

Yes!

já!

No!

Nei!

Bye!

Bless!

My name is ...

Ég heiti ...

I love you!

ég elska þig!


If you want to know more about Iceland and the culture why not check out these articles? 


Conclusion!

Icelandic land scape in March

Now you know! Although Iceland has a long and rich linguistic heritage with Icelandic, you can come to Iceland even if you don't speak Icelandic!

Of course, coming to a country is always more fun when you try and say a few words in Icelandic so give it a go, and if you need any help just come say hi when you're in town!

Don't forget to have a look at some of our best tours, we want to make your trip to Iceland as memorable as possible!

As always,

Your travel guide and friend,

Guillaume​

Does Iceland have a language? What Language do they speak in Iceland? Do people in Iceland speak English? This blog post will cover all of these questions so that you can come to Iceland and know exactly how to communicate with the locals!

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