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by Gunnar Steinn November 16, 2017

There aren’t many languages that can boast their own special celebration but luckily Icelandic is one of them. Today, 16th November, has been known as Dagur íslenskrar tungu (Icelandic Language Day) for over 20 years now.


Why 16th November?

It’s the birthday of one of the most famous and admired Icelandic bards, Jónas Hallgrímsson .


How is it celebrated?

There are always many readings, literary competitions and other events organized on this day to celebrate the event. Young adults and children are encouraged to use only Icelandic words on the day to draw their attention to their richness and fullness of the words and phrases. Here’s a little challenge for you on this day based on a popular superhero - Batman! I guess in most languages you just say Batman. Not in Icelandic though - here we say leðurblökumaðurinn . Try to pronounce that!


Why are we so proud of it?

Icelandic is spoken by just over 330,000 people, however it goes a long way back to the middle ages when the Norwegian settlers first came to the island. It has been preserved very close to its original, which was based on Old Norse and despite the many hundreds of years and influences from many different cultures, it has continued to be spoken by us Icelanders. It’s a living and breathing being, it continues to develop and many wonderful novels, poems and songs have been written and continue to be written in Icelandic. And even a large part of the rap movement is in Icelandic. 


Why is it a fascinating language (and yet another reason to be proud of)?

Every language is a reflection of the people and location where it has developed and Icelandic is no exception. However, it is still totally compelling even to myself as a native speaker that we have over 100 words for wind and almost 200 for snow. Even in a country that is notorious for unpredictable weather and icy conditions, that’s still a pretty high number.


So, Happy Icelandic Language Day ( Dagur Íslenskrar tungu ) and hopefully you will be encouraged to learn a few more words today, be those names of superheroes or just to say ‘it’s breezy today’.


And if you happen to have a Pixel 2 phone Google can now provide a life translation for Icelandic amongst 40 other languages. Pretty nifty stuff, but of course you might be so inspired that you will be learning Icelandic in no time rather than relying on devices to help you get by. :)

Gunnar Steinn
Gunnar Steinn



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