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Icelandic Culture
18 January 2022

Can I speak english in Iceland?

CAN I SPEAK ENGLISH IN ICELAND?

Yes, you can.

There are only around 350.000 people that speaks Icelandic and most of them live in Iceland. We don´t except many foreigners to speak or understand our language. So, if you are among those who do not speak Icelandic, English is your best option.

How common is English in Iceland?

Almost everyone in Iceland speaks good English. Especially young people. Older people might not be fluent, but it is very unlikely that you will meet someone that does not understand a word in English. Some might be a little shy speaking or answer with a very thick Nordic accent, but you should be able to communicate. At least on a basic level.

English is also the language of the Icelandic travel industry. So, when you are speaking to the staff of a hotel, restaurant or at the car rental you will have no problem using English.

Why English?

There are many reasons for that. For example, we start learning English as early as 8 years old in school. However, most kids can speak it much earlier than that. It is probably because most tv shows, movies and music we listen to are in English. Also, with social media, videogames, and other online activities our English will only improve with time as Iceland continues to be a part of the global society.

Volcano in Iceland
Fagradalsfjall volcano

Is there a third option?

If you are not English speaking, you are probably not reading this. Or at least not understanding what we are saying. If you are translating this text, there are a few tips on how to get around Iceland without using English.

You can try another Nordic language, like Danish. We learn it in school. But be aware that does not mean that everyone here understands it or can speak it. Most do not.

If that fails, use technology. For example, use self-check-in service for your rental car. In that way you do not have to talk or listen to anyone. Just pick the key from a box and drop off at the same place. You will not have to talk to anyone directly.

Is English threatening Icelandic?

Iceland is part of the global community and English is becoming more involved in our daily live. English words are starting to find there way into our vocabulary, specially with the younger generation. Most Icelanders are however very proud of our language. It is among the oldest in Europe and has not changed much since the days of the Vikings. That is way we feel it is very important to protect our language by translating as much as we can and teach our children the value of having their own and unique language.

So, if you know any Icelandic words or want to learn them. Please go ahead and use them. We would love it.

Fagradalsfjall volcano
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