Around 330,000 people speak Icelandic, with the majority of them living in Iceland. However, there are some who live in Denmark, with many of them being students from the island. Some live in other parts of the world in countries close to Iceland.
This is a language that is in decline. Many Icelandic people view the language as their mother tongue, but many now speak other Scandinavian languages due to immigration and travel. Due to the cultural element of Icelandic, there is a National Language Day on November 16 each year to celebrate Jonas Hallgrimsson, a poet from the country.
Iceland is the only country in the world to make Icelandic its official language. Despite the country being part of the Nordic Council, the language is not one of the Council’s official languages. However, Icelandic citizens do have the right to use the language without paying for translation or interpretation. Many Icelandic people will use other Scandinavian languages, as they are proficient in them anyway.
The language is spoken in other parts of the world, but it is not official. There are small groups of Icelandic speakers in Manitoba, Canada, in the United States, and in Denmark.
Icelandic belongs to the North Germanic subsection of the Indo-European language family. It’s one of the Nordic branches of the Germanic languages, which also includes Danish and Swedish. It was the furthest West branch of the Indo-European languages because the Americas were colonised.
It can also be classed within the Old Norse languages. This has been derived from the native language of the Vikings.
Most of those who learn Icelandic will learn Standard Icelandic. There are very few variations from this. Some of the dialects are local and mostly involve softer consonants or slight differences in pronunciations. The dialects are intelligible around the country, and many people will switch to Standard Icelandic when needed.
Over the last half a century, most of the dialects have completely disappeared.
Icelandic isn’t going to be that easy to learn. However, it’s also not one of the hardest languages out there. The Foreign Service Institute classifies Icelandic as a Category II language. This is one that has substantial differences compared to English, but won’t require time in the country to learn in full. Within around 1,100 hours of lessons, you should become proficient in the language. This will take around 44 weeks.
The FSI’s guidelines are based on students that are good with learning new languages. There are debates around the world about how difficult Icelandic is actually to learn.
If you already have some knowledge of other Scandinavian languages, especially Danish or Swedish, you may find Icelandic slightly easier than those without experience.