Learn The Icelandic Alphabet and Its Pronunciation
Iceland is a country located on the North Atlantic Ridge, and it belongs to the group of the Nordic countries. Once a forgotten and abandoned country, it's now increasingly popular. The reason is the uniqueness of its landscapes. Its showpieces are geysers and glaciers and the monumental fjords. The Northern Lights are also one of the main reasons why so many tourists visit Iceland every year. Iceland is undoubtedly the only island that offers so many different attractions. All of them were created by nature with no human intervention. The country's history and language are no different and are just as unique. Many tourists planning their visit to Iceland wonder if it is worth learning the Icelandic language or English will be enough. Certainly, Icelandic is one of the most fascinating languages globally; learning it can be challenging. However, you can still learn some basic phrases to surprise the locals. Who knows, maybe you can use them to make new friends in Iceland!
What language do they speak in Iceland?
Iceland is a Nordic country, and its people speak Icelandic. It is part of the Scandinavian languages group, the nordic branch, to be precise. 320.000 people currently speak Icelandic, most of them live on the island. Some minor groups can also be found in Canada and the United States. Although Icelandic uses the Latin Alphabet as a writing system, there are some unique letters we will learn about later on.
Honestly, learning Icelandic to use it while traveling across Iceland is not worth it. Most Icelanders speak English, so communicating will be an easy task. The chances of meeting someone who speaks proper English at a restaurant, tourist attractions, grocery stores, and shops are relatively high.
However, Icelandic is still a very unique and beautiful language that is absolutely worth learning correctly. If you are a language lover, then you can surely give it a go. Due to the island's geographical isolation, the Icelandic language became one of the purest languages in the world. It has remained almost unchanged for centuries! This means modern Icelanders, both adults, and children can easily read the old Sagas written in Old Norse, the language from which Icelandic derived.
It is true you will not need Icelandic to communicate while traveling through the country. Nevertheless, if you plan to stay in Iceland for longer, you should get to know it a bit better.
How to pronounce the Icelandic alphabet
Icelandic vocabulary can put you off at first. Some words look way too long and hard to pronounce. But once you learn that most words are compounds of two or more words, logic will kick in. Icelandic is a very descriptive language, and it does not take long to understand this.
It is ok to get scared at first. Most people have barely had any contact with the Icelandic language, making the task of learning a bit harder. It is not just Icelandic, though, it can actually happen when learning any foreign language. It is easier to learn those languages we are more familiar with or closer to our mother tongue. But this is a matter of time for you to get used to how Icelandic works, sounds, and forms its words. Learning the Icelandic alphabet can be tricky are there are not many resources out there to learn it as a second language, so we will try to help a bit.
The Icelandic alphabet is derived from a mix of the Latin Alphabet and the Vikings' Runic alphabet. The Runic alphabet was imported to Iceland by the first settlers. Some letters were added later in time. Some of the letters did not exist in the medieval runes and so were created. These are the vowels á, é, í, ó, ú and ý, and J.
The Icelandic alphabet consists of 32 letters. If you are trying to learn how to speak Icelandic, you should always learn the alphabet. It is used in daily speech, and without knowing its structure, it will be impossible to speak and understand it correctly. Some of the letters may look a bit odd and difficult at first, but as soon as you get familiar with them, they will make more sense.
One of them is the Æ letter. The Æ pronunciation is [ai] similar to the pronunciation of "I" in icecream. The Æsymbol is treated as a letter and not as a diacritical version of the letter. It represents a diphthong, and in Icelandic, it can be short or long. You will find this symbol in words like Sæll - hello,
The Ðð symbol is transliterated as Icelandic d letter similarly to Þþ, which is usually written as th. This one you can find in the word Thorsmork which is originally written as Þórsmörk. The sound is basically the same as Th in English in "Thing". The Ðð symbol can be found in words like Góðan dag - good morning or Góða nótt - good night.
Here below, you can find the list of all the letters in the Icelandic alphabet and its pronunciation:
Aa a [aː]
Áá á [auː]
Bb bé [pjɛː]
Dd dé [tjɛː]
Ðð eð [ɛːθ]
Ee e [ɛː]
Éé é [jɛː]
Ff eff [ɛfː]
Gg ge [cɛː]
Hh há [hauː]
Ii i [ɪː]
Íí í [iː]
Jj joð [jɔːθ]
Kk ká [kʰauː]
Ll ell [ɛtːl̥]
Mm emm [ɛmː]
Nn enn [ɛnː]
Oo o [ɔː]
Óó ó [ou]
Pp pé [pʰjɛː]
Rr err [ɛr̥ː]
Ss ess [ɛsː]
Tt té [tʰjɛː]
Uu u [ʏː]
Úú ú [uː]
Vv vaff [vafː]
Xx ex [ɛks]
Yy ufsilon y [ˈʏfsɪlɔn.ɪː]
Ýý ufsilon ý [ˈʏfsɪlɔn.iː]
Þþ þorn [θɔrtn̥]
Ææ æ [ai]
Öö ö [œː]
The best possible way to familiarize yourself with the Icelandic alphabet's pronunciation is to hear it and repeat. Hearing the sound will help you familiarize yourself with the sounds and letters. There are many useful transcripts in the Icelandic language you can find online to help you study. As soon as you master your Icelandic alphabet skills, you can pass on some more challenging aspects of the Icelandic language.