Numbers 1 to 4 in Icelandic

I always mix up numbers one through four in Icelandic. You see, it turns out that only numbers one through four change—based on the gender of the thing you’re counting/describing in numbers. (Brutal.)

So numbers one through four / einn through fjórir decline like any other noun does. Each of the first four numbers in Icelandic has three forms—karlkyn (kk. / masculine), kvenkyn (kvk. / feminine), and hvorugkyn (hvk. / neuter). Once you know the gender of the word attached to the number, then you know which form of number one through four to use with that associated word.

For my own sanity (and hopefully this is also of some help to you), I’m including some quick reference visual help below—all via the family behind Save ÍSLENSKA.

Icelandic Numbers
Credit: Save ÍSLENSKA
Karlkyn Numbers
Credit: Save ÍSLENSKA

You use the masculine (kk.) form with counting and with telephone numbers.

Kvenkyn Numbers
Credit: Save ÍSLENSKA

You use the feminine (kvk.) form with Icelandic Krona currency.

Hvorugkyn Numbers
Credit: Save ÍSLENSKA

You use the neuter (hvk.) form with time, with years, and with house numbers.

Let’s just focus on these first four / fjórir numbers for now, as they’re enough for me to study for daaaays. 🙂 However, if you want to jump beyond four 😉 then I suggest practicing counting via a YouTube tutorial (there are many!):

This numbers breakdown from 101 Languages offers some helpful pronunciation assistance as well as three examples of how Icelandic number one (einn / ein / eitt) can be used:

Icelandic Numbers One to Four
Credit: 101 Languages

And this passage in Colloquial Icelandic: The Complete Course for Beginners by Daisy Neijmann offers some additional helpful examples:

Colloquial Icelandic: The Complete Course for Beginners
Credit: Colloquial Icelandic: The Complete Course for Beginners

Do you feel like you’re on a bit of an Icelandic roller coaster, too? 😉

If you want to read even more about the fascinating first four numbers in Icelandic, check out “What Is the Icelandic Word for ‘Four’?” on Slate by Daniel Tammet.

Bless í bili,

The (No Longer) Impossible Icelandic Words

I have plenty of memories driving to and from work this year while practicing my Pimsleur Icelandic lessons and being totally stumped at how to say a word I just heard. It didn’t matter how many times I listened to the narrator say the word—it felt impossible to repeat.

The Pimsleur Method discourages language learners from pausing lessons to look up spelling, pronunciation, etc. I understand that, but I felt like I had to adapt that approach after awhile. (Before looking up words that gave me pause, I was mispronouncing words way more than I care to admit. For example, I had been saying “eva” instead of “eða.”) Oops.

What works quite well for me with learning pronunciation is a mix of the Mango Languages app (Mango shows you how to pronounce each word, and it even has a slow pronunciation option!), the Drops app, (I love the dictionary feature to quickly review pronunciation/spelling at the same time), and Íslensk nútímamálsorðabók (aka the Icelandic Modern Language Dictionary, where a real human pronounces each word!). And if you have an Icelandic friend, you can try asking them to send you a quick audio message pronouncing a word. 😉 (That’s been quite helpful!) I also like to make a list of words I’m struggling saying and review them with my Icelandic tutor. Whatever you do, do not rely on Google Translate’s robotic Icelandic pronunciation; Google Translate is not your friend with Icelandic.

Just for fun, below are a few words I never ever thought I’d be able to say, which I can magically now pronounce. (Okay, not magically—I practiced each over and over again. Solo practice, checking with an Icelandic friend by sending annoying videos of me trying to pronounce words, and reviewing them with my Skype tutor.)

  • neðanjarðarlest (subway…which is ironic, as Iceland does not have a subway system)
  • heyrðu (hear me, tell me…this word is really a must learn in Icelandic—it’s used in all kinds of situations)
  • alltaf (always…the two Ls here together—tough!)
  • krullujárn (curling iron…the á sound followed by r is still a tough pronunciation combo for me)
  • sjö (seven…the j here sounds like “sh” occaisonally to me when some pronounce it)
  • almannatengslafyrirtæki (public relations firm…this one took me ample practice!)

It’s both humorous and motivating to see the words that I used to struggle with. 🙂

And then there are words that sound so similarly to me that I have no clue how Icelanders can tell them apart…like munnur (mouth) and munur (difference)—and mættur (arrived) and mætur (liking). I’ll try tackling those another day, I suppose. 😉



Why write about learning Icelandic?

I’ve been—very slowly—learning Icelandic for the bulk of 2018. Today, I can recall a fair amount of vocabulary, pick out lots of basic words from Icelandic podcasts/radio/film, understand some of what I read in (verrry beginner level) Icelandic children’s books, and have some basic conversation exchanges. (Although, the conversation exchanges I can have are quite limited; it always feels like I’m following a script and simply recalling conversation patterns from memorization—I know, I know…I have to start somewhere.)

For the amount of months that have passed since I downloaded my first Icelandic app (shoutout to Mango Languages!), it feels like I should be much further along than I am. However, I’m not sure what I envisioned that to look like by this point of my Icelandic language learning adventure. 🙂

So here I am—months into trying to figure out this very old, very difficult language that, for whatever reason, I love so much—with no concrete benchmark goals for myself ever set. I went from practicing Icelandic every day via morning vocab practice, audio lessons in the car, and reading practice at night to…practicing vocab when I can. My Pimsleur-filled commute has slowly shifted to all things political news podcasts (I live in the U.S., so you can guess where my head’s been at), and I find myself practicing speaking Icelandic less and less. Yikes!

So how do we make room for the things we deeply value in the midst of the regular chaos of life?

I always seem to be a bit more intentional about things when I write it out, so why not blog about learning one of the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers? My hope is that this little blog will serve two purposes:

  1. Help me solidify my Icelandic lesson learnings by writing down my “aha moments” along the way. (Fingers crossed that I even find a bit of encouragement over the weeks/months to see my own growth.)
  2. Encourage other aspiring Icelandic language learners. (I remember trying to find online resources that listed a bunch of Icelandic workbooks, apps, etc. in one place, and while that surely exists, I never found much that was as comprehensive as I was looking for. I have spent so. much. time. researching all of the possible Icelandic language learning resources accessible to me here in the U.S., and I’ll certainly share everything I’ve found along the way here.)

As I write this, there’s about one quarter left in 2018. I don’t have a firm expectation for where I’ll be in my language learning adventure by the end of the year, but I do have some Icelandic milestones I hope to hit.

So with that, here I go…