Icelandic Language Learning Goal Setting

Autumn is in full swing and we have just about one quarter left (!!!) of 2018. Why not make use of it and squeeze all I can out of these next three-ish months?

I know setting some manageable goals for myself will both motivate me and help me better notice my progress. (Because ambiguous goals like “learn Icelandic” and “practice every day” haven’t been working well for me lately.)

Lindsay Does Languages has this to say about measuring progress: “The first flush of a new language is fun and joyful and lovely. But then things start to get harder, the ‘slope’ of achievement gets steeper, and complete lack of motivation seems to become our closest friend. Sucks! Do you want to know one thing that really helps to stop this? Measuring your progress. Documenting your learning has a huge impact on motivation, improvements, and overall success.” <– This! This! This!

In the remaining quarter we have left in 2018, I hope to complete the following:

  • October 2018
    • Be able to recite the Icelandic alphabet from memory. 🙂 I have most of it down, but I still forget the pronunciation and order of some letters.
    • Complete all of Pimsleur’s Icelandic Level 1. (There are 30 lessons, and I’ve completed 20+ of them.)
    • Complete Chapters 6-7 in my “Learning Icelandic” workbook.
    • Complete Mango Language’s Icelandic Unit 2. (I’ve only completed Unit 1; I stopped using the app once I started Pimsleur lessons.)
    • Complete the “Food & Drinks,” “Nature & Animals,” “People & Health,” and “Travel & Health” vocab categories in the Drops Icelandic app.
  • November 2018
    • Complete Mango Language’s Icelandic Unit 3.
    • Complete Chapters 8-11 in my “Learning Icelandic” workbook.
    • Complete the “Home & Garden,” “City & Shops,” “Business & Tech,” and “Society & Politics” vocab categories in the Drops Icelandic app.
    • Complete Icelandic Online 1 through the University of Iceland.
  • December 2018
    • Complete Mango Language’s Icelandic Unit 4.
    • Complete Chapters 12-15 in my “Learning Icelandic” workbook.
    • Complete the “Fashion & Clothing,” “Fun & Recreation,” “Science & Wisdom,” and “Sports & Fitness” vocab categories in the Drops Icelandic app.
    • Complete Icelandic Online 2 through the University of Iceland.

I work full-time and I’m teaching an evening college course this semester, but these milestones do feel manageable for me now that I’ve written them out. And I’m familiar with all of above resources already, so I won’t have to figure out how to use a new Icelandic program/app.

I do have other Icelandic books and apps (too many, perhaps!), but I’ll tackle those in 2019. I think it will help me to stay focused on just a few of my Icelandic resources rather than keep switching back and forth between them all.

And I surely do have more specific goals (like sorting out noun declensions and other grammar difficulties), but I know that will come with practice. For now, I’ll focus on what I can control, like the above tasks. Wish me luck!

Bless í bili,



More Icelandic Numbers

Once you sort out how Icelandic numbers one through four / einn through fjórir work (at the very least, learn the masculine form used with counting), then dive into the other numbers.

I quite like this simple Icelandic counting YouTube video:

Furthermore, as Dr. Jennifer Wagner from points out:

“The numbers hundrað, þúsund and miljón have set genders (neuter, neuter and feminine), so it is important to decline these as plural numbers when using any number after 1 (i.e. tvö þúsund). It is also important to use the correct gender of the numbers 1 – 4 with these numbers. To make matters worse there can be more than one form of a number in a larger number. For example, hús (house) is neuter. So to say 2031 houses you must use the correct form of 2, 1000 must be plural and 1 must be neuter as it qualifies the noun house. 2031 houses in Icelandic would be tvö þúsund þrjátíu og eitt hús.”

Confused yet? Don’t worry—you’re not alone. 😉 Keep practicing. I promise it gets (a bit) easier, even if it doesn’t feel like it now.

Icelandic Numbers
Credit: Pinterest

Gangi þér vel!


Learning the Icelandic Alphabet

Honestly, I’m embarrassed to say that I still don’t have this down. I sometimes mix up the order and it’s still a bit tough for me to remember the pronunciation differences between o / ó and u / ú. Bless those handful of Icelanders who chose to make Icelandic alphabet YouTube videos because they’ve been incredibly helpful. 😛

This is the first YouTube video that helped me out:

And below is a newer YouTube video that I like even better because a) it doesn’t have any annoying background music with it and b) the narrator pronounces each letter twice. 🙂

And if you’re looking for a song to help remember—or you’ve got it down and you want to practice a bit faster—you can try out this YouTube video made for children:

If you’re anything like me, you’ll both dread this cartoon alphabet video and also have a special place in your heart for the catchy song simply because it makes remembering a bit easier. It’s very much a love-hate situation for me. 😉

And here they all are so you can practice on your own. 🙂

Credit: Omniglot

Good luck!



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. 🙂



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…