Iceland Mag

11 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Icelandic rated among the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers

By Matt Eliason

  • Tough Task Due to the archaic vocabulary and complex grammar rules, the Icelandic language leaves English speakers attempting to learn the Nordic dialect scratching their heads. Photo/Stéfan

Hjálp ég er týndur! That means, "Help, I am lost" in Icelandic. Unfortunately, this is one of the few phrases I have been able to learn during my time in Reykjavík. This language has been near impossible to figure out due to the difficult sounding syllables and unique looking "letters" that make English feel like a walk in the park. 

Spear-wart The word geirvarta (nipple) can be directly translated as “spear-wart.”

I was slightly vindicated to learn that I am not the only one experiencing difficulties learning the Icelandic language. In fact, Icelandic has been consistently ranked as one of the hardest languages for English speakers to learn as a result of the archaic vocabulary and complex grammar.

The two biggest difficulties I've had learning the Icelandic language is, first, pronouncing the words. Icelandic is an Indo-European language, belonging to Germanic roots, and is also closely related to Norwegian and Faroese. Not only are the words extremely long, the specific syllables are pronounced completely different from your typical English syllables.

Second, the conjugations are extremely confusing. I have taken Spanish and had no problem learning the different endings to the root words, however, Icelandic is an entirely different animal that gave me headaches trying to figure out what ending to throw on each word.

So for any of you English speakers coming to Iceland in hopes of learning some of the local dialect, you better prepare to be frustrated and humbled by this confusing Nordic language.

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