Becoming Fluent in Icelandic

Let me first clarify for anyone who possibly landed on this page via a Google search that I am not fluent in Icelandic—not even close to fluent. 🙂

Some have asked me why I chose to learn Icelandic of all languages (a story for another time) and if my goal is to become fluent in Icelandic.

I live in the United States / Bandaríkin, so the thought of becoming fluent in a language that really isn’t spoken anywhere near me doesn’t feel very realistic. 😉 And becoming fluent in a language with a category 4 “Language Difficulty Ranking” (out of 5) via the Foreign Service Institute also serves as a bit of a reality check! However, yes—my eventual goal (that surely will take years)—is to be fluent enough to understand Icelandic in everyday life on my trips there and to hopefully even respond back in Icelandic (and not obsess over my incorrect grammar usage) in a way that makes some sort of sense…even if it is at times a mix of Icelandic and English.

In the immediate, I hope I can engage in casual conversations in 2019 that go beyond the standard “Hvernig hefurðu það?” / “Hvað segir þú gott?” with Icelanders during my Iceland visits. I’d be thrilled if at some point in 2019 I can engage in enough common conversation exchanges at stores and restaurants in Iceland with confidence—and with Icelandair / Air Iceland flight attendants while traveling. 🙂

ILSC-San Francisco suggests the following: “Try to relate your goals to actual language functions such as ‘order a coffee’ or ‘understand the main points of a news report’ rather than grammatical functions like ‘learn the subjunctive tense.'”

Okaaay. That feels doable. I do know enough Icelandic to be able to order coffee (yay for small wins!), but understanding main points from Icelandic news would feel like a solid win. I’m working toward that in 2019—specifically with regard to watching to the news via RÚV online.

I’ve heard others who are learning Icelandic share that they could get to a point where they understand what Icelanders are saying, but couldn’t actually speak Icelandic back as a response—thus, they couldn’t ever really participate in conversation without responding in English. If I could ever understand Icelandic enough to be able to respond even in English, I’d be stoked.

So beyond speaking Icelandic in stores and restaurants—and understanding enough of the news to “get it”—I would really love, love, love to be able to speak a fair amount of Icelandic with the Icelandic friends I’ve made. One day…

While becoming fluent in Icelandic may never happen for me, I’m certainly going to work toward that as a (very far away) longterm goal. Until then, you can find me trying to figure out what’s happening in the news / fréttir on RÚV. 🙂

Bless,

Sarah

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