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Icelandic at risk; robots and computers can't grasp it. The start of Icelandic Week!

REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) — When an Icelander arrives at an office building and sees "Solarfri" posted, they need no further explanation for the empty premises: The word means "when staff get an unexpected afternoon off to enjoy good weather."

The people of this rugged North Atlantic island settled by Norsemen some 1,100 years ago have a unique dialect of Old Norse that has adapted to life at the edge of the Artic.

Hundslappadrifa, for example, means "heavy snowfall with large flakes occurring in calm wind."

But the revered Icelandic language, seen by many as a source of identity and pride, is being undermined by the widespread use of English, both for mass tourism and in the voice-controlled artificial intelligence devices coming into vogue.

Linguistics experts, studying the future of a language spoken by fewer than 400,000 people in an increasingly globalized world, wonder if this is the beginning of the end for the Icelandic tongue.

... Icelandic ranks among the weakest and least-supported language in terms of digital technology — along with Irish Gaelic, Latvian, Maltese and Lithuanian — according to a report by the Multilingual Europe Technology Alliance assessing 30 European languages.

Click here to read the full article

Losing a language isn't just losing another way to say the same thing, it reduces the problem solving capacity for our entire species. I talk a little about that Here. I didn't even know Icelandic was endangered because it wasn't previously on my radar. It might be the same for many other people. In light of this, I am unofficially declaring this Icelandic Week!

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to help us learn more about Icelandic. Search the internet to find cool and interesting facts about Icelandic and make a discussion post about it.

When creating your post, don't paste the whole article. only include part of it. Link folks to the source where you found the rest of it. This helps produce traffic for the sites who made the information possible. And finally, don't make more than one Icelandic post per day.

Icelandic Bunnies say:

Ready. Set. GO!

April 25, 2017



While most if not all European languages use some form of the word 'Chaos' to express the word's meaning, Icelandic does not and instead uses the word 'Ringulreið' (As far as I can tell). It's an example of how isolation has led to the language being unique for not having had the Greek or Latin influence that would lead to them adopt words like chaos.

I'm glad you made this thread because it gives me a chance to explain that the reason I have no real activity on Duo other than the forums is because the language I've been learning for a while is Icelandic. I'll try and think of further cool things about the language since I've been learning it.

Here's my attempt at pronouncing hundslappadrifa: http://vocaroo.com/i/s1YDg0C8VpRZ


Same for me. I'm learning ASL and it is not on Duolingo. :)

Your comment is full of information that is completely new to me!


Thank you so much! It doesn't sound like what I thought at all :P


Isolation has been a part of it but in today's interconnected world the biggest reason is the desire to keep Icelandic Icelandic by inventing their own words instead of importing them (see: radio - útvarp, television - sjónvarp).


It is sad that such an interesting language is disappearing, thank you for posting this! I like the word "Hundslappadrifa" I'm still trying to pronounce it :P


If you can find any good YouTube pronunciation tutorials, it would make for a good resource to share with the forums. ^_^


I can't really use YouTube, but I will try to find something! :D


Maybe Duolingo will honor the week with a surprise for all of us;)


That would be amazing! This discussion was not inspired by any inside knowledge on my part.


Huldufólk: The Truth Behind Iceland's Obsession With Elves

Here in the U.S., elves are generally seen as fictional creatures that belong to fairy tales and pop culture. We may humor the idea of their existence during Christmas, but we probably don't have a lot of cause to consider elves the other 11 months of the year. In Iceland, however, belief in elves is a very real and very significant part of national culture.

Link: https://theportalist.com/huldufolk-the-truth-behind-icelands-obsession-with-elves


So cool! If you make an Icelandic post, I hope you'll includee that link!


I think you'll like this article too:

Icelandic Has the Best Words for Technology

When the University of Iceland got its first computer in 1964, Icelandic did not have a word for “computer.” So the guardians of the language invented one: tölva—a fusion of tala (number) and völva (prophetess) that adds up to the wonderfully poetic “prophetess of numbers.”



This series of lectures is offered by a Professor of Icelandic and Old Norse on Youtube. He was a creative participant for the movie Frozen.

These are 6 videos that speak specifically about Icelandic.

I also recommend his other videos for insightful information about language learning in general.

Basic Pronunciation of Icelandic (Modern): https://youtu.be/b00tW9LEGqE

The Icelandic letters Þ and ð: https://youtu.be/5bAMH_B_Glc

"Last names" in Old Norse and Icelandic: https://youtu.be/X3ncrEppzv8

Old Norse vs. Modern Icelandic: https://youtu.be/5_T5jxWyxk8

Old Icelandic vs. Old Norwegian, Old West Norse vs. Old East Norse: https://youtu.be/fj5l61zZrDE

How can I learn Old Norse or Icelandic?: https://youtu.be/RaFcCo6IudU


I didn't have much interest in Icelandic until I read this. Pretty interesting. Thank you


I'm glad that it is helping to generate interest. :)


I just found a Duolingo discussion that discusses digital language death in broader terms beyond just Icelandic. You can find it Here.


Unfortunately the AP article doesn’t preserve the diacritics in Icelandic words and names; for example, “solarfri” should be sólarfrí (“sun-vacation”).


I am probably going to Iceland in 2 years and want to learn Icelandic but I can't find any websites that I liked. I already voted to add Icelandic to Duolingo and I really hope it gets on here.


Here's a list of resources for anyone who would like to learn Icelandic:


  • Icelandic online. A very comprehensive resource by the University of Iceland. Goes all the way from zero to C1.

  • Modern Icelandic audio course by Alaric Hall. A course based on the Michel Thomas method, very good for learning fundemental grammar.

  • Viltu læra Íslensku? A video course. It is 100% in Icelandic but it has subtitles.

  • ISLEX A very handy dictionary, especially if you know another North Germanic language.

You can find all of these (free!) resources at the link. (except ISLEX, link below)

PS: Usagiboy7, ertu að læra Íslensku?


Thank you for posting this. I just read it recently. Other European languages at risk are Lithuanian, Latvian, and Maltese.


I don't get the point of that article: how is Icelandic "endangered"? It's an official language plus spoken on an island, which makes it less likely to lose its characteristics by contact with other languages. Sure, there might be some influence by English but you could say that about most languages.

Unless an asteroid hits Iceland, I don't see its language disappearing.


You can read more about how languages become endangered Here. :)


Again, how is Icelandic endangered? An official (and the only one) language of an island, plus a language with a certain degree of prestige to it, as it's so close to Old Norse. no offense to the scholars who wrote that article, but of all the languages spoken by less than one million people, I would say Icelandic is the least likely to face endangerment.


It fits this criteria:

An endangered language is a language that is at risk of falling out of use as its speakers die out or shift to speaking another language. Source.

That is currently happening in Iceland.


How much official business does the Icelandic government do, within Iceland, in some other language instead of Icelandic?


I had no idea about this, I hope something is done about it.
Maybe some point in the future Duolingo will have an Icelandic language course. Perhaps if more tourists learn some of the language before travelling there it might slow this sad trend.


A course built by fluently bilingual native speakers could certainly be a step in the right direction. Though, I'm sure that on the whole, revitalizing Icelandic would take a multi-strategy approach to reverse the trend. Full integration with internet and other technology, strong purposeful presence in popular media, among other things would likely go a long way. :)


There were some great comments here that don't seem to have become discussion posts. Y'all still on board for it?

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