Icelandic language

Hi! I have a question for Norwegian and Danish native speakers. How Icelandic similar to those languages? Can you understand this language? If i will learn danish or norwegian, can learning Icelandic be easier for me?

August 16, 2015


I'm Icelandic and can't understand Norwegian and Danish. I'm guessing it's the same vice versa, maybe even more so since Icelandic grammar is more complicated. If you want to teach Icelandic, you would definitely have to know a lot of grammar in general, since Icelandic is very inflected.

I speak Norwegian and Icelandic is crazy, crazy different.

When I lived in Norway, my Icelandic neighbors and my Norwegian neighbors spoke English to each other.

If you speak Norwegian already you'll understand mostly roots of nouns, adjetives, verbs and some pronouns (hestur, barn, dagur etc. are similar to hest, barn, dag) but the case, number, articles, verb tense etc will be more difficult to guess. Another difficulty is the huge amount of Low German loanwords present in Bokmål and the created neologisms in Icelandic to mantain language purism. That makes both languages even more different.

Summarising it'll be easier to learn Icelandic after learning Norwegian (or Danish/Swedish) but it'll be like learning a totally new language because of inflection and language purism.

I can understand around half of Icelandic if I try to, have to guess the rest based on context. Also, it is easier to understand written Icelandic compared to spoken for most words IMO.

Norwegians can recognize some Icelandic words, but they are no where near intelligible with each other.

To answer your question: yes, the more languages you learn, the easier it will become for you to learn languages altogether. If you learn Norwegian/Danish, you will only recognize some words.

It's probably a bit comparable like trying to read this (Old English) if you know English:

They both where once 1 language but after a millennium you'll end up with a completely different language where you only understand a word here and there. It of course will be easier since how more languages you know of a language group how easier it gets to learn the others. But it will probably be more like learning German if you already know English.

Does someone here know if Duolingo has in mind adding an Icelandic course in the near future?. I expect moving to Iceland in 1 year to study and it would be great to have some previous knowledge before arriving there. Also, could someone recommend me some Duolingo-like website where I could learn Icelandic online? Thank you

Many of us are hoping that Icelandic will be added now that Norwegian is out beta. However, even if it does get added, it'll be a long time before it becomes usable. Since you want to learn it within a year, I'd recommend learning it with some other tools. I've heard one of the universities there has a good website for learning it.

I speak Norwegian and I can understand the basic idea if I can see it written, but the grammar is very different from Norwegian, for example Norwegian uses a lot of prepositions but Icelandic has heavy inflection and case endings which Norwegian doesn't which makes it difficult for even Norwegian speakers to learn

Learn Norwegian (Bokmål) in just 5 minutes a day. For free.