Is learning Icelandic insanely difficult?

Is it crazy to even attempt it? I have studied a lot of languages but Icelandic grammar just makes me want to break down and cry.

June 12, 2017


On the Foreign Service Institute's language difficulty scale that goes from 1-3½, Icelandic is 2. Robert Lindsay on the other hand rates it as 5/6.

Nothing is crazy to attempt, with enough motivation, materials and immersion, you can learn any language. Over 90% of Icelanders speak Icelandic, clearly it's possible.

June 12, 2017

Jeez, why is it rated so high? It uses the roman alphabet and has similar patterns to other languages..

June 12, 2017

Lindsay justifies the rating with the archaic vocabulary, high irregularity and some weird pronunciations. To put the ratings in context, both FSI and Lindsay put Icelandic as harder than German and modern Romance languages, as difficult as Polish and Greek, and easier than Mandarin.

June 13, 2017

You shouldn't start memorising the grammar. You should use it to remind yourself of the patterns you have recognized before.

June 12, 2017

Honestly it's only hard if you think it's hard. I know people who have learned Icelandic, yes they had to work extra hard, but for them it was worth it in the end. I never look at a language just on how hard or easy a language is because all languages have their hard aspects and their easy aspects.

June 13, 2017

Have possibly also a look at the app.

160 natural languages, including Icelandic.

1 language free, $5 once for all 160 languages. Focus on vocabulary.

I tried Icelandic, and saw now more connection with e.g. the Germanic language Norwegian when seeing it written and spoken there in the app.

June 15, 2017

Don't bother with the grammar at all until you are a little bit further.

Many Icelandic adults struggle with the grammar and don't know everything there is to know. I'd just keep them in the back of my mind.

February 7, 2018

I know it's not exactly the same but I'm learning Old Norse at the moment. Icelandic's grammar has not changed very much at all since the Vikings spoke Old Norse and settled in Iceland. Like Mr_Eyl said, the case system is probably the most challenging part of it's grammar but it isn't exactly hard if you don't over think it. Once you learn the difference between the subject, direct object, indirect object, and the genitive nouns it gets easier from then on. I found, actually, that the case endings for words makes total sense to put into a language and now that I think of it English should have kept its case endings for its nouns.

March 22, 2018

If small children can do it, so could you! (That's what I'm hoping about "my" studied language anyway). I don't think your Swedish will be of much help though, and that's because I (fluent in Swedish) can barely read or understand any Icelandic, for example the newspaper is very difficult for me.

June 14, 2017

Its not that hard but you can struggle a little, especially if youre a native like me.

September 29, 2017

I don't speak icelandic. My native tongue is scottish gaelic. I learned a few different languages with different grammar like dutch and Spanish. I feel that after getting used to people speaking it and repeating phrases you sort of get tbe feel for grammar. It may be strange at first but has a unique feel to the language. It might slowly start to make sense

May 14, 2019

Coming from a Icelander ,and I have this problem as well. The thing that Danish pretty hard to understand is that we speak fast like Danes do. Foreigners tend to tell us to speak slower. Not like Swedish where they speak slowly. I'm sorry if my grammar isn't perfect.

August 5, 2019

Its difficulty is relative, like any language. Experience with other Germanic languages, and / or highly inflected languages will make it a lot simpler, as you'll be applying skills you've already learned to memorising different patterns.

Honestly, the case system is the biggest hurdle for learners, and in my opinion it's not as big a hurdle as you can face with many non-Indo-European languages.

June 12, 2017

I did look at the grammar more today, and I understand it more, but it's still I think too hard to even attempt. There are dozens of endings for just one noun, and many nouns are irregular. Plus pronouns have gendered rules to them, then there's adjectives as well. Even if I did learn the regular grammar, there's so much irregular stuff and I only found one textbook to learn from. I love the language though. My heart says yes but my brain says no. Give me your opinion- should I just continue learning Swedish?

June 12, 2017

Your native language might be hard for people that speak a different language. People that speak agglutinative languages (languages where morphemes form together to make words like antidisestablishmentarianism) natively, like Finnish, might find it harder to learn analytic languages (languages with much use of prepositions and few inflection) like English.

It is logical that it is hard. My advice? Learn an easy language first. Preferably a language related to the one you want to learn. You will then begin to see similarities. Thus, you learning Swedish, is a good idea, because it has declensions too. Though I'd do the Norwegian tree myself if I were you, because it is much better, in both explanation and how hard it is, and Norwegian is closer to Icelandic as well, than Swedish is.

The first foreign language is always the hardest, unless you're a linguistic thrift or a young child. After that, the more languages and grammar you learn, the easier it will be.

Wiktionary is a helpful guide for that. This page for example, is a glossary of often-used linguistic terms, and there is more. I think you will find Grammar Monster rather useful; it has a page on cases, including explanations and exercises.

Regarding Icelandic, it is important to remember that there is no definite article; instead, they just use the word itself; and for indefinite articles, they add -inn behind the noun. It is as if you were to say man-a instead of a man.

The best tip to learn gendered nouns is to learn nouns alongside with their gender; e.g. ''mann (m)''. You can make an Anki/a Memrise learning list for that.

What also might help is to discern the different endings words have. Words that have these specific endings often always are of one gender; e.g. -ingur makes nouns feminine. A smart idea as well, is to look at the noun stems; the parts of nouns that don't change for inflection. Learning the gender of each stem will reduce the problem of having to remember a noun's gender.

These two pages are valuable resources for Icelandic as well, in my opinion;

The Icelandic government has an extremely valuable, free course on Icelandic. Link

Have good luck! Gangi þér vel! I hope this helps you.

P.S. : Learning grammar is one thing, understanding how to use it and being able to do so, is much harder. I've experienced that myself. Don't worry about that. Eventually you will hit a wall, which you just did, but after a while, you will suddenly feel a 'breakthrough'.

June 13, 2017

I speak the following Germanic languages mostly on a fluent level: Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, German, English.

When I visited Iceland I was not able to follow the native Icelandic speakers there.

So learning any of these Germanic languages first is probably not a head start method.

June 13, 2017
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