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January 12, 2015


Learning lots of Icelandic!

Góðan dag!

As you may remember, I’ve been learning Icelandic for the January uTalk Challenge. It’s a totally new language for me, with different rules and pronunciation to other languages I’ve studied, and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with it.

There are a few sounds in Icelandic which I really love. One of them, which I’m going to (unflatteringly) call the ‘spitty’ sound, is the sound made by a double ‘L’, as in the word for car (‘bíll’). It’s incredibly satisfying to replicate, although I can’t really explain why – just find an Icelandic person and ask them to say the word for car, or get uTalk and hear our lovely voice artists say it, and you’ll see what I mean.

There are also a few sounds which have just tied my tongue into knots. Although a surprising amount of Icelandic seems vaguely intuitive for an English native speaker, occasionally I’ll come across a preposterously long word boasting a collection of ‘eð’s and ‘þorn’s (the two ‘th’ letters), and it’s really been a case of memorising the words at this stage. It took me absolutely ages to master ‘hjúkrunarfræðingur’ (rather less manageable than English’s nice and simple ‘nurse’) and ‘afgreiðslumaður’ (‘shop assistant’). However, on most topics there have been several items I can make an intelligent guess at, either because they have some connection to the English (‘hjarta’- heart, ‘kókoshneta’- coconut, ‘baunir’- peas, ‘bjór’- beer) or because Icelandic is wonderfully logical at times: it doesn’t take too much imagination to see that ‘á bak við tréð’ indicates ‘behind the tree’, and ‘Ég er með tannpínu’ means ‘ I have (lit. I am with) toothache’. So I have had it slightly easier than some of my colleagues, who have been battling with languages completely unconnected to English.

My technique has been to cram as much in as quickly as possible, launching into the Hard Game first and then going back to Practice to check on what I got wrong. I’ve left all the Recall sections until I’ve completed the other games in all the sections, and then I’ve gone back and used it as a test of how much I remember. I’ve also been pointing to people and things all weekend and saying the word in Icelandic, and getting anyone I’m with to repeat the words back to me. I’ve found this really useful because it makes you assume a certain amount of teacher-like responsibility, so if I’m not 100% sure on what I’ve told them I’ll go back and double-check it. Also, if they repeat back anything nonsensical I realise I’ve probably pronounced it terribly in the first place, and need to revise it. So thank you to everyone who’s put up with me spouting random Icelandic words at them recently! What I now plan to do is to leave the Icelandic for a week and then to come back to it towards the end of January and do all the Recall sections again, and see how much I remember (hopefully a lot).

I’ll leave you with my favourite word so far, which is ‘surfing’ – again, just another really satisfying sound: ‘brimbrettabrun’:

Brimbrettabrun (surfing in Icelandic)Is anyone else doing the uTalk challenge? How are you getting on?


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