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What Language is Spoken in Iceland?

What Language is Spoken in Iceland

In a land of stunning natural beauty, the language mirrors its surroundings in its pure and unchanged form. The Icelandic language, a descendant of Old Norse, is not just a means of communication among the Icelanders, but a tether linking them to their rich Viking history.

Key Takeaways

Official LanguageIcelandic
Language FamilyNorth Germanic
Number of SpeakersApproximately 314,000 (native)
Language AuthorityÁrni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies
Unique CharacteristicsHighly inflectional, Preserved old Norse elements

Delving into the Icelandic Language

Historical Roots

Icelandic, belonging to the North Germanic family of languages, has its roots deeply embedded in Old Norse, the language of the Vikings. It’s fascinating how Icelandic has preserved many old linguistic elements, making it a window into the past.

Official Status

Icelandic is the official language of Iceland, integral to its national identity. It is not just a means of communication but a symbol of Icelandic history and culture.

Script and Pronunciation

The Icelandic script utilizes the Latin alphabet, enriched with a few special characters like Þ/þ (thorn) and Ð/ð (eth). Pronunciation may pose a challenge to learners due to its unique phonetic attributes.

Icelandic Language Authority

The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies serves as the custodian of the Icelandic language, ensuring its purity and usage in line with traditional norms. This institution also fosters research and education in Icelandic language and literature.

Árni Magnússon InstituteLanguage Preservation, Research, Education

Learning Icelandic

Icelandic may seem daunting to learn due to its complex grammar and unique phonological features. However, it’s a rewarding endeavor for those interested in historical languages or exploring the rich cultural tapestry of Iceland.

Language Schools

There are several language schools offering Icelandic courses:

  • University of Iceland
  • Reykjavik University
  • Mímir Lifelong Learning

Online Resources

In today’s digital age, numerous online platforms provide Icelandic language courses. Websites like Icelandic Online and apps like Drops can be instrumental in your linguistic journey.

Language Immersion

Immersion in a language-speaking environment is a highly effective way to learn. Engaging with locals, participating in language exchange programs, or enrolling in intensive language courses in Iceland can significantly accelerate the learning process.

Linguistic Landscape

Iceland is not monolingual; English and Danish are widely understood and spoken. However, the prominence of Icelandic is undiminished, reflecting the nation’s effort to preserve its linguistic heritage.


Despite the dominance of Icelandic, multilingualism is common, especially in urban areas. English is often used as a second language, followed by Danish due to historical ties and educational policies.

LanguageProficiency Level

Influence of Other Languages

Icelandic has been influenced minimally by other languages, thanks to stringent language preservation policies. However, global trends and technological advancements have ushered in a few foreign words into Icelandic lexicon.


Icelandic, the language of sagas and a living link to a bygone era, continues to flourish in Iceland, nurtured by passionate speakers and rigorous preservation efforts. Learning Icelandic is not just mastering a language, but embracing a remarkable blend of history, culture, and tradition in a linguistic form.