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Icelandic

There are only approximately 350,000 Icelandic speakers in the entire world.
January 21, 2019
Inga Rós Antoníusdóttir

The unique Icelandic language
As far as languages go, it is safe to say that Icelandic is a small player on the playing field.


How many people speak the icelandic language?

In fact, there are only approximately 350,000 Icelandic speakers in the entire world. Most of them, around 330,000 people, live in Iceland, 8000 in Denmark and 5000 in the USA, with the rest spread globally. This means that just 0.005% of the global population speak Icelandic. So, if you’re looking to learn something quite unique, The Icelandic language may be a great choice.


The untouchable Icelandic language

Despite the language being unknown to most, the history of Icelandic is one that usually ignites the interest of linguists anywhere. Not only because it is the language of the Sagas but more so because it has remained more or less intact and untouched since medieval times.

Many languages have died out due to the corruption of other languages and/or lack of cultural interest within a nation but the People of Iceland have gone to great lengths to protect their language the best they can.

Icelandic language and the making of new words.

Whereas many languages use the same root of a word for new inventions Iceland is determined to make their own unique words for every word there is, hence words such as “tölva” (computer) and “Leðurblökumaðurinn” (Batman) are difficult to decipher. The word for computer, ‘tölva’ is a combination of the old word ‘völva’ (fortune teller) and the word  “tölur” (numbers). So essentially, ‘computer’ is ‘numeric teller’ in Icelandic. Batman on the other hand is just a direct translation, “leðurblaka”=bat, “maðurinn”=man.



The Icelandic alphabet consists of 32 letters.
Aa, Áá, Bb, Dd, Ðð, Ee, Éé, Ff, Gg, Hh, Ii, Íí, Jj, Kk, Ll, Mm, Nn, Oo, Óó, Pp, Rr, Ss, Tt, Uu, Úú, Vv, Xx, Yy, Ýý, Þþ, Ææ, Öö

You may have noticed that there is no C, Q, W or Z and that it contains letter eth(Ðð), and the runic letter thorn (Þþ). Ð and Þ are pronounced similarly and Icelandic words never begin with Ð, nor do they end with Þ.

All of the regular vowels (A, E, I, O, U and Y) have an identical vowel with a comma over it. This comma is, despite what you might think, not an accent but signifies a different vowel with a different sound. In addition the Icelandic alphabet has the vowels Æ and Ö.  So in total, there are 14 vowels in the Icelandic alphabet – and 18 consonants.

We suggest you test your newfound skills by singing the hardest karaoke song in the world, “The a - ö of Iceland”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f88UJyCA__M



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