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Why Learn Icelandic? Four Good Reasons


1. It Can Teach you a lot about English

Although it may seem like a very foreign language, Icelandic is actually a lot more closely related to English than you think. In fact, it is much more closely related to English than French or Spanish are. English and Icelandic are both Germanic languages. Icelandic is North Germanic and English is West Germanic.

The North Germanic languages (also known as the Scandinavian languages) consist of Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish.

The main West Germanic languages are English, Dutch, and German.

All Germanic languages (West and North) have the same Proto-Germanic origins.

All of the modern Scandinavian languages were the same language about 1,000 years ago. This language was called Old Norse. Old Norse and Old English were very closely related in the same way that modern French and Spanish are closely related with one another.

English and Icelandic are the respective children of Old English and Old Norse. A major difference between English and Icelandic is how they have changed over the years. Icelandic has remained very similar to its Old Norse mother. In fact, modern Icelanders can read the Old Norse sagas as written Icelandic and Old Norse are mutually intelligible. In other words, modern Icelandic is almost the same language spoken by the Vikings. On the other hand, English has undergone drastic changes over the past 1,000 years or so. Modern English and Old English are no longer mutually intelligible and certainly not to the degree that Modern Icelandic and Old Norse are.

If you learn Icelandic, you will have a very strong understanding of Old Norse, the mother of all Scandinavian languages. Furthermore, the traditional inflection system that Icelandic maintains will make it much easier for you to learn and understand Old English, not to mention Latin as well as a plethora of modern languages that maintain an inflectional system of varying degrees of complexity such as German and Russian.


2. Similarity with other Scandinavian Languages

As I mention above, all of the Scandinavian languages were the same language about 1,000 years ago. Thus, they all have unmistakable similarities. Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish are a lot more similar to one another than any of them are to Icelandic, but the advantage of learning Icelandic is that you have mastered the complex inflectional system lost from the others (with the exception of Faroese). Because the mainland Scandinavian languages have made substantial grammatical simplifications over the years, they are wildly simple to learn with a strong basis in Icelandic.


3. It is a Great Place to Live

Despite the name, Iceland is, ironically, nowhere near as icy as her sister, Greenland. You can thank early Scandinavian (Viking) explorers for the confusion. In fact, Iceland enjoys a relatively temperate climate thanks to the Gulf Stream.

You may or may not have heard about how much power the people in Iceland have. Through demonstration they forced governmental reform putting corrupt bankers and politicians in jail (rather than bailing them out like in the United States during the recession). Iceland has also been ranked the third safest country in the world for 2013. Although English is widely spoken as a foreign language in Iceland, you will score major brownie points amongst the locals for your serious attempts at conversing in their language.

4. The Typical Benefits of Language Learning

Icelandic is a language not commonly studied outside of Scandinavia, taking a backseat to more commonly studied languages like French, Spanish, Italian, German, Arabic, Mandarin, and Japanese. That is why you would really stand out amongst employers and educators if you had knowledge of Icelandic on your resume and college applications.

Learning a new language keeps the mind young and sharp. It has been proven that using more than one language decreases your risk for age-related mental degeneration and can even increase your IQ. Mastering a language as complex as Icelandic will certainly give your intelligence a significant boost.


Brittany Martin from United States on July 10, 2017:

I've always wanted to learn Icelandic. I am pretty decently fluent in Swedish and have a huge obsession with Germanic languages. Unfortunately, Germanic languages are harder to find resources for than the more popular Romance languages (besides English, Romance languages have the most resources online and offline, really, period).

Raphael Dipippo on March 14, 2016:

Nice article

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