How Hard Is It to Learn Icelandic?

By OptiLingo • 6 minute read

How hard is it to learn Icelandic? Not as hard as you think.

Icelandic Isn’t as Hard as You Think

Icelandic has a fierce reputation. Many believe it’s an impossibly hard language to learn. But, the reality is, Icelandic is far from impossible. Let’s look at all the reasons why some would think Icelandic is hard to learn, and how you can make Icelandic studies easy.

Is Icelandic Hard?

No, Icelandic isn’t hard. But, it’s relatively harder than some languages for native English speakers.

The US Foreign Service Institute (FSI) compared all languages in terms of similarity to English. From this, they created a ranking of difficulty. This starts from easy category I languages like French or Spanish, all the way to a complex category V like Mandarin or Japanese.

Icelandic is a category IV language in terms of difficulty according to the FSI. So, it’s harder than French but much easier than learning Chinese would be.

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How Long Does It Take to Learn Icelandic?

How hard a language is and how long it takes to learn it is the same concept. The harder the language is, the longer it will take to master it.

Since Icelandic is a category IV language according to the FSI, their estimate for reaching fluency is 1100 hours or 44 weeks of study. That seems like a long time to spend on a language. But, with the right methods and resources, you can easily speed up your Icelandic studies.

Icelandic isn't as hard to learn like vikings make it seem

What Makes Icelandic Hard

There must be a reason Icelandic is rumored to be a hard language to learn. Let’s dive into the specifics of the language that make it more difficult to learn than others.

The Vocabulary Is All Unique

Thanks to its geography, Icelandic vocabulary is unique. There are only a handful of languages which mixed with Icelandic over the course of its history. The outcome is a lack of loanwords in the Icelandic vocabulary. So, when you’re learning Icelandic, loanwords can’t help you out. Nearly every word and phrase you study will be new, and that makes learning Icelandic harder than other languages.

Icelandic Linguistic Purity

A nationalistic movement in Iceland in the 19th century further emphasizes the previous point. In an attempt to return Icelandic to its highly poetic roots, a new linguistic trend emerged. Icelanders took the few loanwords they had from Danish and made them sound more Icelandic. So, even the loanwords that exist in Icelandic often get turned unrecognizable to foreigners.

Today, linguistic purism still exists in Icelandic to a point. However, today the most common foreign loanwords in Icelandic are from English.

Icelandic Grammar is Scary

Nobody likes learning grammar. But, mastering the grammar of Icelandic can give anyone a headache.

For example, the exact same letters in the exact same word can have very different meanings depending on which letter or letters the inflection falls on. A simple word can be vastly changed by which particles surround it. The Icelandic language has four cases, irregular declensions, sub-classes for nouns, and three voices. And that isn’t touching gender or singular or possessive. And learning all these things takes time and practice. But, it’s not impossible.

The road to Icelandic fluency

Why Icelandic Is Easier Than You Think

Icelandic Is Germanic Language

Since Icelandic comes from the colonizing Old Norse speaking Vikings, it’s a North Germanic language. You know what else is a Germanic language? English.

Well, English is technically West Germanic. But, the root of the language family is the same. So, some of the grammar and the logic of Icelandic will be much easier to learn about.

The Is Alphabet Familiar

Imagine having to learn a different writing system. Now, that’s hard to do. Thankfully, Icelandic uses the same letters and alphabet as English. Although there are a few minor differences, such as accents, the core of the language is the same.

This is just another reason why Icelandic is not as hard as they say.

Icelanders Are Nice

Don’t underestimate how important the welcome of the people can be. Their kindness can motivate your Icelandic studies. And if you’re ever in trouble, Icelanders will surely offer a helping hand. This makes learning Icelandic easier, and more fun too.

How You Can Learn Icelandic Easily

Of course, the ultimate way to make your Icelandic studies easier is with the right methods. The kind that makes you progress in language learning but is also fun. If you feel your fluency developing steadily, you’re on the right path. Use these trusted language learning techniques to defy those who say learning Icelandic is hard:

  • Use comprehensible input: This is the key to successful language learning. Comprehensible input means that you’re keeping your studies at optimal levels. Your lessons are easy enough to understand but difficult enough to keep you engaged.
  • Listen to Icelandic media: Iceland has plenty of  TV and radio shows you can tune in to. This is a fun and intensive listening exercise you can do at any time. Plus, you can stay informed on current Icelandic events.
  • Speak it, don’t type it: A lot of language learners (and some language learning apps) make the mistake of focusing on typing Icelandic. You’ll never learn the language by writing it. You need to speak Icelandic to reach fluency. Starting your speaking practice from the first lesson onwards can help build your confidence and you’ll have no problem speaking to locals. So, don’t neglect this.

Is It Worth Learning Icelandic?

Absolutely. There are so many reasons why you should learn Icelandic. Although there are only 350,000 people who speak it worldwide, there are plenty of opportunities for you when you learn Icelandic.

There are clear brain benefits of being bilingual. Speaking several languages is a great way to fight dementia and Alzheimer’s. Icelandic also looks great on your CV. You can stand out at a job interview, and negotiate a higher pay thanks to your knowledge.

Learn Icelandic Easily With OptiLingo

You need the best resources to learn Icelandic easily. You can enroll to a language course, but that’s quite expensive. Alternatively, you can put all of your materials together for free, but that takes a lot of time. The easiest, and most reliable option to learn Icelandic is to download OptiLingo.

This app will make you speak Icelandic fluently. It includes the most common Icelandic words and phrases, so you learn exactly how the locals speak. OptiLingo’s strength is that it focuses on your speaking skills. You can confidently learn how to say Icelandic words with the help of this app.

Make your Icelandic studies easier by downloading OptiLingo!