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Speaking English in Iceland

11.03.2019

Tourists at Glacier Lagoon Iceland

Many of Iceland’s tourists come from English speaking countries, like the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. As a result, many of these tourists wonder if they will easily be able to communicate in English with Icelandic locals. So – does everyone speak English in Iceland?

The simple answer is yes. While not everyone in the country of Iceland speaks fluent English, the majority of Icelandic citizens do. And those who aren’t fluent still typically have a firm grasp of the English language – certainly enough to communicate with visitors and answer questions you have about directions or other basic questions you might have.

If you’re planning a trip to Iceland and you are concerned about being able to communicate with the locals, you really shouldn’t worry. Particularly in the service and tourism industry (servers, tour guides, taxi drivers, etc) speak English incredibly well.

This means you won’t have to worry when you’re trying to tell your taxi driver where it is you want to go or when you’re trying to place your dinner order. As a rule, Icelanders speak English very well. Some Icelanders may not be very confident in their ability to speak English, but they are usually happy to try and help.

English in Iceland

So, why is it that Icelanders speak English so well? For starters, English is taught as a second language in Icelandic schools, meaning that children begin learning to speak the language at a young age. Also, because so much of the world’s entertainment (TV shows, movies and books) are in English, Icelanders enjoy them as much as we do, and to do so they must speak and understand English.

Another point to raise is that Icelandic and English are both Germanic languages, meaning that if you go back far enough, these languages share the same roots. This can make it much easier for Icelanders to quickly learn English because, in many ways, there are a lot of similarities between the two languages – even though it may not always sound like it! While the languages may have similar roots, the pronunciation of each languages alphabet is actually very different. This is why it is so difficult for native English speakers to learn Icelandic as a second language.

Icelanders are very good at learning different languages in general, and many locals speak many other languages – not just Icelandic and English!

Icelandic Language

The Icelandic language is actually quite fascinating and has changed very little since Iceland was settled in the 9th century AD. Due to Iceland’s isolated location, the island has not been heavily influenced by other languages throughout history, meaning Icelandic has remained much more pure compared to some other languages that have been influenced by the languages of bordering countries.

In fact, Icelandic has changed so little that most Icelanders can read ancient texts like the Sagas, or the histories of Iceland’s early settlers.

 




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