New Mission: Learn To Speak Icelandic In 6 Months

  • Donovan Nagel
    Written byDonovan Nagel
    Donovan NagelTeacher, translator, polyglot
    🎓 B.A., Theology, Australian College of Theology, NSW
    🎓 M.A., Applied Linguistics, University of New England, NSW

    Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator. Founder of The Mezzofanti Guild and Talk In Arabic.
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New Mission: Learn To Speak Icelandic In 6 Months

Góðan daginn! 😊

Today, as promised, I’m announcing my new, personal language goal for the remainder of 2020 for those interested:

Learn to speak (and begin to read) Icelandic.

Within 6 months, my aim is to be able to converse fairly comfortably with an Icelandic native speaker.

I have no experience with Icelandic or any other Nordic language so this is completely new territory for me, but learning Icelandic is a target that’s been at the top of my todo list for many years.

Now is a good time to start. 😊

COVID and Iceland travel

I originally planned to include a climactic immersion stint in Iceland this year, documenting my experience on video.

Similar to what I did with Irish a few years ago.

Unfortunately, this whole lockdown disaster has made my original goal of immersion in Iceland virtually impossible for now. Iceland, being a small island nation, is unlikely to accept international travelers for a long time.

The tempation was to abandon my goal entirely, but I just don’t want to give up any more of life’s enjoyment for the uncertainty of this pandemic. It’s already been 6 months of sitting around putting everything on hold, but life’s too short to throw a year away waiting.

I’ve already written at length about why I believe language learning during lockdown is so important.


So I’m going to use online options to practice with the hopeful expectancy that international travel will go back to normal at some point, and I can finally do immersion in Iceland.

Which online options?

italki no doubt, but I also want to experiment with some different options for the first time which will give me a chance to share my experiences here.

Why learn Icelandic?

As I always say, why is the most critical determiner of language learning success.

If you go into a language mission without compelling motivation, you’ll almost certainly fail. General interest usually doesn’t cut it because it tends to come and go for most of us (and languages are long-term commitments).

You need persistent motivation.

So for me personally, I’ve always found Icelandic appealing for a number of different reasons:

1. Ancestral significance

I’m (technically) not Icelandic.

But Iceland’s genetic makeup is essentially Northern Germanic and Gaelic (of which I am both).

Given Iceland’s proximity to Ireland and history of Nordic migration to both islands, I’ve always felt a close affinity despite having never traveled there.

Did you know that of the original settlers of Iceland, up to 80% of females were Gaels (Irish)? 😊

2. Strongman

As my regular readers know, I’ve always been into weight training and bodybuilding.

In recent years, I’ve moved away from bodybuilding (after getting married and having kids, I see it as nothing but an aesthetic/vanity sport), and I now train in powerlifting and strongman-type exercises. They’re far more practical for strength building and overall endurance.

Well… Iceland reigns supreme in this sport. 😊

I’m a huge fan of Hafþór Björnsson (aka the Mountain from Game of Thrones).

3. Modern day Icelanders are still able to read the sagas (Old Norse)

Saga means ‘story’.

These are medieval stories that give an amazing window into the history of Northern Germanic peoples and their beliefs.

Icelandic has obviously evolved but a lot of these old texts can still be comprehended by a modern-day Icelander.

This is something I’d like to explore as I progress with Icelandic.

4. Icelandic is beautiful to listen to

I’ve really fallen in love with the sound of Icelandic.

Lately, I’ve been spending some time just saturating myself with Icelandic audio (online radio mostly). Even though I don’t understand a word, I’m just getting my ears used to the sounds and flow of what I’m hearing.

It’s just a truly pretty language to listen to.

5. Icelandic has a reputation for being difficult which I aim to dispel

Like other languages I’ve learned (e.g. Russian, Korean and Arabic), Icelandic has a general reputation for being extraordinarily difficult for English speakers.

I’d like to prove this wrong.

Also, as someone who has learned mostly non-European languages, I fully expect Icelandic to be quite easy in comparison.

We’ll see.

What about Icelandic resources?

To be honest, I haven’t done an in-depth analysis of what’s available for Icelandic yet.

But a few general searches haven’t brought up much.

There isn’t a whole lot of demand for Icelandic learning material so naturally, there isn’t nearly as much as you’d find for other European languages (including Irish).

But there are a few resources I’ve been meaning to extensively test out that include Icelandic, so this is a good opportunity to do so. I’ve also ordered some quality Icelandic books that include audio.

I’ll share more about these Icelandic resources soon as I have a chance to use them.

For now, as I said above, I’m just getting my ears acquainted with the sounds of Icelandic by listening to online radio, and freely available YouTube content.

In the coming week, I’ll begin to amass my arsenal of resources to work with for the next 6 months.

Join The Guild for updates and sign up to the language forum

You can click here to ‘Join The Guild’ or use the form below this article.

I’ll email out regular updates on my progress and discoveries (in addition to sharing here).

Also be sure to sign up to the language forum if you’d like to take part in discussion about Icelandic (or any other language).

I’ll periodically post there too.

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Let me help you learn Icelandic

Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Greek


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Bergmann Guðjónsson

Bergmann Guðjónsson

so I wanted to recommend this site if you had not found it already my mom teaches Icelandic to foreigners and this site was made for teachers at one point but it is open for everyone but it is all in Icelandic. but good luck with my language



Join the group Practice and learn Icelandic on Facebook. There is a file called Resources in the files section. So lots of great information about learning Icelandic there !



You don’t choose the easy route do you bud? Arabic, Korean, Russian, Irish, do know you’d have been a youtube superstar by now if you’d simply chosen some easy languages like FIGS, Norwegian/Swedish/Danish? You coulda claimed 8 languages and superhyperduperpolyglot status.

Good luck mate.



Hah, YouTube superstars are overrated. :)
Thanks mate.

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."
- Ludwig Wittgenstein
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