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. 🙂



Overcoming Icelandic Language Learning Plateaus

It feels too early in my Icelandic language learning adventure to hit a plateau—I mean, I definitely don’t have all of the basics mastered—so perhaps I just need to get into more of a routine and be less hard on myself for sucking at Icelandic grammar. 😉

I think part of why I feel so stuck at the moment is that while I can follow an Icelandic noun declension chart just fine, it seems as if there are so many exceptions to the rules; it feels nearly impossible to figure out for certain on my own.

  • First, look up the noun to identify if it’s male, female, or neuter. (Because sometimes I can guess the gender correctly, but not always.)
  • Then sort out if it’s strong or weak. (This still does not feel obvious to me.)
  • Then follow the noun declension chart which has some of the common endings, but not all. (I know I probably just need to get into a groove with noticing/remembering patterns.)

Getting over the noun declension hump feels brutal. I’m sure I’ll grasp it with time and more practice, so perhaps it’s best to move onto Icelandic adjectives. And perhaps I need to be a bit kinder to myself and remember that while learning the many forms of Icelandic words is for sure a must—I don’t have to figure it all out right now. 

I’ve read a good bit lately about getting over language learning plateaus, and here are a few takeaways that resonate most with me at the moment:

  • Recommit to your routine, and adjust it if it’s not working for you. I know that I felt my best when I practiced with Pimsleur audio lessons during my commute to and from work each day. I haven’t done that for awhile—instead, I’ve often switched to podcasts totally unrelated to Icelandic. Oops.
  • Try out new materials. Feeling like you’re in a rut with your same old Icelandic workbook or app? Switch things up. Try a different app (Mango Languages, Memrise, and Drops are the best, in my opinion), hop onto YouTube (I haven’t practiced with these much, but there are lots of seemingly helpful videos to practice your Icelandic here), or get a few Icelandic children’s books to apply what you’ve learned.
  • Practice speaking aloud no matter what. It can be easy to practice Icelandic on an app and slowly get into the habit of listening and playing one of the app games with less and less any verbal practice. (It defeats the purpose, I know, but I’ve been there.) I think one area I struggle is when I have no idea if I’m saying things correctly…then sometimes I just pause. In Sid Efromovich’s “5 Techniques to Speak Any Language” TEDxUpperEastSide talk, he describes our “language database,” which contains “all the sounds and structures that we know.” Diving into all of the new sounds and structures beyond our database—when we’re practicing Icelandic, for example—is the space where, as he puts it, “nothing within our knowledge […] will tell us when we’re getting the structures right, nothing to tell us when that sound is precise.” He adds, “When we say it, we could say it perfectly, but in our minds, it will sound like a mistake.” The discomfort here is what we need to embrace, he says; it’s “the trigger that you need to look for because that is the signal that tells you that you’re going beyond your database and that you’re allowing yourself to explore the realm of the new language.” Okay! Talk about motivation!
  • Practice both parts of a conversation. In his same talk, Efromovich suggests having a “shower conversation,” where you practice both speaking parts of a conversation. He says, “the beautiful thing about a shower conversation is that it allows you to find wherever you have a gap in your knowledge, because you’re having a conversation on both ends.” Whether it’s while getting ready in the morning, cooking a meal, or driving to work—I kinda love this back and forth solo practice method.
  • Keep a language learning journal. I aim to use this blog to jot down my language learning journey—the wins, the struggles, the aha moments, and just cool stuff I experience along the way—but I also have a (lengthy) Google Doc that I use to write out questions I have for my Icelandic tutor or just areas I don’t want to forget to review with her. 😉
  • Pause practicing if you’re not in the right headspace. There won’t be much learning going on if you’re exhausted or having a bad day. I can attest to this, and I imagine you can too. Give yourself a break when you’ve had a rough day or are low on sleep. Some might disagree with this one and suggest practicing a few minutes anyway, but I know that I only grow more frustrated with myself when practicing if I’m at an energy low or distracted with something in my personal life.
  • Change things up if/when language learning stops being fun. This one is tough for me to live out. I want to figure out this grammar stuff! I also know that I should probably focus more energy on practicing speaking instead—so that’s what I aim to do at the moment.
  • Be honest with yourself about whether or not you’re really experiencing an actual language learning plateau. Are you definitely at a halt or are you using a learning plateau as an excuse? Hell, I might be.

To end, I want to include this thought from Dreaming Languages; the author writes: “To avoid encountering a plateau we should change our focus from learning towards acquisition, and try to acquire language as used by natives in context, without grammar explanations and without using translation. If we avoid confusing learning about the language with the acquisition of the language, the place we draw gratification from will change completely.”

Cheers to having fun with Icelandic, speaking it aloud daily no matter what, and pausing on grammar when it feels like too much. 🙂

Bless í bili,


P.S. — Unless you have to for work or some other commitment, might I suggest that we all resist the urge to try to learn a language in three months, six months, or even one year? I’m always so stunned when I see blogs and products that promise fluency in a set amount of time. That’s never been my goal—becoming fluent in a specific amount of time—but I imagine that must be so stressful to attain. Yikes!

Icelandic Pronouns + Possessives

Okaaay, so remembering the basic Icelandic pronouns and possessives can still be a struggle for me, so I wanted to have a quick reference here. 🙂

I still mix up which form of “they” to use.

Icelandic Pronouns
Credit: Dr. Jennifer Wagner

The video below should be helpful if you’re unsure of how to pronounce Icelandic pronouns; the narrator even goes into the verb, “to be”:

Aaand I also often confuse minn / mín / mitt.

Icelandic Possessives
Credit: Dr. Jennifer Wagner

I will definitely be referring to these charts often, and I hope this helps a few of you as well. 🙂

Sometimes Icelandic is Logical

Icelandic might be quite tough for native English speakers like me to learn, and I might be terrified by noun declension tables, but Iceland does have moments where things feels all too logical.

Hard to believe? I know, but check this out:

  • almenningsbókasafn = public book museum = public library
  • ísbjörn = ice bear = polar bear
  • inniskór = inside shoes = slippers
  • hitastig = heat points = temperature
  • gleraugu = glass eyes = glasses
  • svefnherbergi = sleep room = bedroom
  • eldhús = fire house = kitchen
  • dýragarður = animal garden = zoo
  • flugvél = flight machine = airplane

See? And there are lots more logical words just like this. 🙂 So in those moments where you’re deep into Icelandic grammar and want to cry, remind yourself of these easy to understand words. 😀


The First Time I Correctly Heard and Spelled an Icelandic Word

Spelling in Icelandic isn’t something I focus on much right now. I definitely care about reading and writing in Icelandic, but I care more about being about to listen and understand it—and being able to respond back in Icelandic.

Yes, I know how to spell a number of words thanks to lots of Icelandic vocabulary practice (the app, Drops, is my favorite resource for vocab practice), but I hadn’t necessarily heard a new word spoken and immediately thought that I could perhaps sound it out and spell it…until this month!

In a recent episode of an Icelandic culture podcast I quite like, All Things Iceland, the host (Jewells) asks her guest (Aldís) about her favorite Icelandic word or phrase. Aldís has a few, with one of them being “kraðak,” which she shares just after the 42-minute marker in case you want to check that particular part out.

Obviously, while listening to the podcast, I didn’t have a reliable way to check the spelling of this word—so I sent my Icelandic friend Vilborg (who is a literal angel for answering my plethora of incredibly random Icelandic questions that pop up) a message recapping this bit of the podcast episode. I explained what the word meant and how I thought it was spelled (k-r-a-ð-a-k), and then asked her if she knew what word I was referring to.

And guess what?! I was correct! I know—kraðak is not a lengthy, super difficult word, but it does have an Icelandic letter (called “eth”) so I was pretty pleased with myself for guessing the correct spelling on this one. 😉

Cheers to small wins, language learning firsts, and Icelandic friends who help along the way.



Are Icelanders frustrated with Icelandic learners?

This feels like an unfair question, but it’s something I read about here and there in a myriad of blogs and Iceland-based English news publications.

From everything I’ve read or been told, Icelanders of course appreciate people who attempt to learn Icelandic. However, I do read things similar to the below via The Reykjavík Grapevine:

“Even for motivated speakers, Iceland’s language environment is studded with obstacles to frustrate immersion. Perhaps because it lacks this history of foreign language students, Icelanders themselves have […] particularly ‘little patience’ to listen as foreigners transmute the foibles and fortes of their native tongues into Icelandic. Furthermore, there is remarkably little difference in the accent spoken between different Icelanders, phonetically speaking, which creates friction when foreigners with their own accents try to assimilate.”

I don’t live in Iceland, nor am I even nearly fluent in Icelandic, so I’m sure these situations definitely happen—but if you’ve read things similar to the above on your own, try not to let it discourage you from trying. 🙂

I’ve only visited Iceland a couple times (so perhaps I’m not much of a credible source on this!), but with each bookstore / bókabúð and coffeeshop / kaffihús I visited, I said the standard “Halló! Ég er að læra íslensku. Ég tala bara svolítið íslensku.”—followed by the simple exchanges I knew about books, coffee, numbers, and money. Not one Icelander seemed frustrated with me. Each smiled and offered simple slowly-spoken responses in Icelandic, and some even taught me some new words (like receipt, which I think is kvittun?). I never felt an ounce of impatience from them—only encouragement.

And this past summer, while talking (in English, of course…sigh) with my Icelandic friend and her Icelandic boyfriend, he recalled hearing two foreigners speaking Icelandic while he was in line somewhere and he indicated how lovely it was to witness. My friend’s sweet mother even greeted me in Icelandic when I entered their home and was so gracious with my (surely) very jumbled attempt at responding back in Icelandic.

I appreciate The Grapevine’s concluding advice in the same article I reference above:

“To that end, reams of shamelessness and Icelandic friends to make accountable for error correction and speaking practice will go far, as will education that puts a premium on ‘on task’ speaking and listening. It’s not until you start speaking and interacting that it suddenly all makes sense because of a process you arbitrarily set in motion with a heavy investment in time. Adequate language resources and an understanding of how you learn are critical, but with Icelandic, it’s best to just dive in.”

(Speaking of Icelandic friends helping with error correction—this really is a massive gift, even from afar. My closest friend in Iceland sends me an occasional message politely correcting my attempt at writing an Icelandic Instagram caption 🙂 and I love her so much for it! I’m often wrong, and she knows I’m eager to learn and how much I appreciate her help. Ask your Icelandic friends to correct you—it really is helpful beyond measure.)

My point is this—if you’re like me and were a bit bummed to read about the (potential) impatience of Icelanders with regard to speaking with Icelandic learners, practice speaking anyway. There’s a good chance I’m super naive (or just have had lots of random luck) and you very well may have some bummer encounters like the one described by Grapevine, but I also know from experience that there are also lots of Icelanders who will gladly chat with you in Icelandic. Keep practicing and hold onto those memories of helpful Icelandic exchanges when they happen. 🙂

Bestu kveðjur,

My Dream: An Icelandic Crash Course in the Westfjords

Okay, so this is one of many dreams for me, but you get my point. 🙂

The University Centre of the Westfjords (in Ísafjörður) offers a one-week Icelandic “crash course” that I really, really want to take next summer—or perhaps even the Intermediate B1 class…but that might be a bit of a stretch goal. 😉 Read more about their intensive course offerings here.

You can also check out the below articles from summer 2018, which each offer a nice overview of the program:

  • “Fólk er of gjarnt á að skipta yfir í ensku” via RÚV
  • “Vinsamlega talið íslensku, takk” (by one the University Center’s Icelandic teachers) via BB
  • “Don’t Speak English To Those Trying To Learn Icelandic” via The Reykjavík Grapevine Magazine

It all sounds absolutely amazing. #Goals, right?