Practicing Icelandic Through Transcription

One of my coworkers recently told me how she wants to start taking Spanish lessons again. (She, too, has an online language tutor.) I asked her what she felt like one of the most helpful ways to learn Spanish has been for her, and she said transcription because the act of transcribing makes you listen very attentively while also practicing writing/spelling. I had never thought of this as a way to study/practice a language!

My first thought was trying this out with some Icelandic podcast episodes, but first to slow down the playback. My work friend let me know that her tutor advised her to avoid what I thought was a brilliant idea. 😉 Instead, he told her, it’s best to listen to the audio at a normal pace in order to fully grasp the words and sounds in a normal, everyday context.

Icelandic transcription sounded like one of the most difficult things in the world to me at the moment, but I tried it anyway…

My first attempt was with an Icelandic podcast called Í ljósi sögunnar via RÚV that has just one host (as I didn’t want to try transcribing anything with lots of crossover talk) who doesn’t speak too quickly/is easier for me (and I presume, other new Icelandic language learners) to understand than other podcasts. (I learned about Í ljósi sögunnar from a friend. She recommended it when I asked for some podcast recommendations to listen to while running errands to help with some passive learning; lately, I find even just listening to Icelandic is a helpful way to focus on the sounds and rhythm of the language, without the purpose of understanding what’s being said.) Then I tried a short KrakkaRÚV show with brief episodes, only lasting two to three minutes…and while the language felt more manageable given the more basic vocabulary used with children’s content, the music and added sounds made it difficult for me.

Okaaay. So I learned that I’m probably not yet ready for this transcription language learning exercise. What I thought was a slower paced podcast in comparison to others actually felt like the fastest talking podcast host in the world when I attempted to transcribe even just one sentence. 😉

So it turns out that Icelandic transcription is one of the most difficult things in the world for me—at the moment. 🙂 I’m not there yet, but that’s okay. NBD, right? This (too advanced for me) exercise can be something I reach for in the months ahead. Perhaps I’ll become an Icelandic transcribing pro in 2019. 😉


One Week! / Ein vika!

Quick note. Vika (week) is a feminine noun, so the number einn (one) then becomes ein. Einn is the nominative form for one, and ein is the feminine form. Icelandic numbers one through four change based on the gender of the noun being described. Confusing AF, I know. I pretty much always have to look up the gender of nouns and go from there.

Exactly one week from now I’ll be flying somewhere over the North Atlantic Ocean, headed toward Iceland. It will be my third (and not last) trip there this year (well, and my third trip ever there). That’s perhaps a bit excessive—I know—but for me, Iceland is a place where I feel whole in ways I can’t ever seem to properly describe.

A few moments that captured my heart on day one…

  • I remember the first time I saw Hallgrímskirkja in the dark early winter morning. It was my bus drop-off point, next to my Airbnb, and I was in absolute awe at finally seeing this bright tall church I had for so long only seen in photos.
  • I remember walking out of Sandholt after a much needed post-flight cappuccino, seeing the water just a couple of blocks ahead of me and the sun finally rising (much later than I was used to!). I must have stood still outside of Sandholt for a solid couple of minutes, trying to take in my surroundings—still very much in shock.
  • I remember walking up Lækjargata from Harpa after finishing the (very fabulous) CityWalk walking tour during my first afternoon in Reykjavík, with the Prime Minister’s Office in sight ahead of me. I had tears in my eyes, in total disbelief that I had actually made it to Iceland. I felt such overwhelming gratitude that I vividly remember surprising myself a bit when I caught myself audibly saying, “Thank you” in repetition, quietly to myself. It felt as if I quite literally couldn’t contain the immediate joy, gratitude, and love for this seemingly perfect place.
  • I remember trying my best to stay awake my first evening in Reykjavík, after learning it would be my best chance that week to see the northern lights. I did, indeed, manage to stay awake (a miracle) and see the green dancing lights in Þingvellir, a national park just east of Reykjavík. I cried—again—in total wonderment of this land I had for so long desired to visit.

I’ve traveled to a number of countries outside of North America, but nowhere left me feeling like I needed to go back ASAP like my favorite little island country just south of the Arctic Circle. So I lived into that gut feeling—the very week I returned home to the U.S. after my first Iceland adventure in January 2018, I booked another trip for October 2018. (However, I caved by spring and ended up booking a trip in-between trips for July. My heart couldn’t wait until fall, it seems!) I felt (and still do feel) like a human magnet; I’m not sure how much time can pass without me needing to be back in Iceland.

So here I am, with just one weekend separating me from a nation I’ve come to love so deeply, and I’m still full of so much gratitude for the gift that is having experienced Iceland and the added gift of knowing I’ll return in a matter of days.

Skál til Íslands,

Practicing Icelandic with KrakkaRÚV!

Jewells, host of the All Things Iceland podcast, and I have emailed a bit back and forth lately about learning Icelandic and she offered many wonderful resources and suggestions. One of her recommendations was to watch KrakkaRÚV, RÚV’s television programming for children.

I checked it out and clicked on an “Úti í umferðinni” video simply because I knew that “umferð” meant traffic, so perhaps I might recognize a few of the words in the shows. (I think “Úti í umferðinni” means “out in the traffic.”)

Úti í umferðinni — Úti að leika
Credit: KrakkaRÚV

The “Úti í umferðinni” series includes a number of short (2-3 minute) safety-related videos for kids, and the vocabulary is simple enough for me to (mostly) understand. 😀 (Honestly, the things that excite me nowadays related to learning Icelandic are rather hilarious.)

KrakkaRÚV is about ten times better than the Barnalög YouTube channel (those vids are helpful, but a 30-something-year-old can handle only so many cartoons and songs), and KrakkaRÚV offers quite a bit of variety. 😉

Skál til KrakkaRÚV!


Pimsleur Icelandic Practice [Lesson 25]

Last month I shared how I aim to finish the rest of my Pimsleur Icelandic audio lessons as one of my Icelandic October goals; I’ve repeated lesson 25 a few times and thought writing out some of the commonly used words and phrases in it might help me retain what I’ve learned.

Full disclosure—I imagine I have an error or two (or ten) here, so don’t rely on the below completely.

  • Where to do you intend to go? = Hvar ætlar þú að fara?
  • And with the children = Og með börnunum
  • Which way is best? = Hvaða leið er best?
  • The correct way = Rétta leiðin
  • Is this the correct way? = Er þetta rétta leiðin?
  • This is the correct way = Þetta er rétta leiðin
  • That is the correct way = Það er rétta leið
  • Turn = Beygðu
  • Drive further = Keyrðu lengra
  • Then = Síðan
  • Is it far to…? = Er langt á…?
  • How many…? = Hvað margir…? / Hversu margir…?
  • That is not far = Það er ekki langt
  • I would like to buy something = Mig langar að kaupa eitthvað
  • For = Handa (when buying something)
  • I would like to buy a wool sweater today = Mig langar að kaupa lopapeysu í dag
  • Can I (that)? = Get ég það?
  • Why? = Af hverju?
  • Why not? = Af hverju ekki?
  • Because = Af því að
  • The stores = Búðirnar
  • Closed = Lokaðar
  • The sores are closed = Búðirnar eru lokaðar (this one took me quite awhile to learn how to say!)
  • Blanket = Ullarteppi (this is a fun one to say!)
  • No, you cannot = Nei, þú getur það ekki
  • She answers = Hún svarar
  • Right? = Ekki satt?
  • Late = Áliðið
  • It is too late = Það er of áliðið

If you’re trying out Pimsleur Icelandic, too, I suggest doing each audio lesson on your own (without stopping to look things up) and making note of the words you want to check on later. I usually repeat each lesson multiple times and allow myself to look up translations/spelling later.

Góða skemmtun!


Recognizing Icelandic Words in Music

I always listen to music with no words or music not in English while at work. Listening to music with (English) words is too distracting while writing.

Today, while listening to Ásgeir’s Dýrð í dauðaþögn album, I paused when I heard the word “augnablik” in the song, “Þennan dag.” I learned augnablik (which means moments) this week during one of my Pimsleur audio lessons! Well…I thought augnablik was two words…and I actually thought it was augna blink, but I didn’t fully grasp the pronunciation during my audio lesson. 😉

This seems like a minor moment to celebrate, but what I loved most about it was that I was deep in work mode. I wasn’t paying attention to the music or trying to sort out any Icelandic words I know—and then just like that I noticed augnablik.

Small wins are still wins. 🙂 I think I’ll remember this little moment for quite some time.


Practicing Icelandic Through Song Titles

On my first trip to Iceland, I listened to quite a bit of Icelandic music thanks to Icelandair’s ample music selection on my sleepless flight to Keflavík. I had really only listened to Sigur Rós, Ásgeir, and Of Monsters and Men prior to that, so I was amped to add find new music for what would become a future Iceland Trip playlist. 🙂

Flash-forward a few months into learning Icelandic and perhaps my favorite thing about listening to Icelandic music nowadays is incorporating the words I’ve learned so far when trying to sort out what Icelandic song titles mean.

For example, the above are all song titles I’ve (somewhat) figured out the meaning to (I think) on my own. At the very least, I’ve been able to identify enough words to get a sense of what a few songs are likely about.

  • “Þú (you) Komst (come / find) Við Hjartað (heart) Í Mér (in me)” by Hjaltalín — A song lyrics translation website says this translates to “You Touched My Heart.”
  • “Leiðin (way / the way) Okkar (our) Allra (all)” by Hjálmar — Google Translate is the worst with Icelandic, but it says this means “Our Way of All.”
  • “Ryðgaður (rust) Dans (dance)” by Valdimar — One music website says this means “Rusty Dance.”
  • “Sævindur” by Ylja — Google Translate says this means “waters stained glass”…but I know that sæ = sea and vindur = wind, so I’m gunna say sea wind aka sea breeze?
  • “Skuggamyndir” by Rökkurró — Google Translate says this means “shaddows,” and my guess was shaddow pictures, as skugga = shaddow and myndir = pictures.
  • And as for those Ásgeir songs, I know that “Sumargestur” = summer guest, “Hljóða (hljóð = sound) Nótt” means something about the night, and that “Nýfallið Regn” means something to do with new or fresh rain, as nýtt / nýr = new and regn = rain.

I definitely know that I didn’t get all of the above correct, but I’m okay with that at the moment. I know enough words to grasp the general meaning—at least I think I do—and I’m pretty proud of myself for that. (I’m always so tough on myself, so I want to soak up these mini accomplishments!)

The past couple weeks of impromptu song title translation practice has been a nice little reminder that language learning isn’t about all things grammar. It’s way more holistic (at least that’s what I want it to be), encompassing big parts of my everyday life.

From realizing a song’s meaning when the title pops up on a playlist to intentionally writing out my daily gratitude list in Icelandic (just started this!) to naming items in Icelandic while on a walk (blóm! gras! hundur! bílar! vegur!), I’m making an effort to practice Icelandic beyond my workbook and apps, and I feel pretty good about it. 🙂