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A steep learning curve

26 February, 2014

My Icelandic self-tuition is bimbling along at a slow pace, but with 6 months to go I’m not worried. I know I have no chance of being fluent but if I can learn a few basics and generally get by then I will be happy. The first time I went to Peru I borrowed a tape from the library (yes, it was that long ago that they leant out tapes!), played it non-stop in the car for a month and flicked through a phrase book. That was all I needed, and I managed not to get poisoned or run over or arrested or anything else bad. Admittedly I was staying with a family I knew in Lima, but on the several occasions I took to the streets of Miraflores on my own, I impressed myself with my cosmopolitan literacy.

Sorry, went off on a tangent. Where was I? Ah yes, Icelandic. I had briefly flirted with the language a few years back, hence I already own a phrase book, teach-yourself book and a dictionary, so I figured I would revisit them in that order. For the last few weeks I have been flicking through the phrases a couple of times a week, getting a feel for the words and the slightly alien-looking alphabet with its accents, joined-together letters and new symbols that spell “th” sounds. I can remember a few phrases now, and I am beginning to recognise words and thus see a little of how the grammar works. Ah, the grammar. There is a lot of it, I remember that from last time. But it seems to follow rules, even if they are numerous, so that should appeal to my ordered and consistent mind.

Last night I browsed the teach-yourself book. I skipped pronunciation, I’ve got that down. Lesson 1 was alot of noun grammar and a few phrases – “here is the house”, “from the city”, that sort of thing. Flick, flick, browse, browse. Lesson 3, more phrases – “down the hill”, “In this place”, “she sat among the trees”, “I shall go south in the autumn and stay with grandmother” – sorry?? WHAT??? This is lesson 3 is it? Wow there isn’t much of a gentle introduction is there? And hang on, what’s this phrase? “the trawlermen have got into contact with their agent in these parts”? Shit, I’m only going for a week, I hadn’t planned on negotiating with trawlermen’s representatives. Unless they mean agents as in spies. That’s something else I hadn’t intended to get involved in, I was thinking more along the lines of whale watching and the Northern Lights.

So this teach yourself thing is a steep learning curve. They didn’t bother with “hello” or “thank you”, just went straight for the complex stuff.  Will six months be enough? Or to put it another way, will a week be enough? If I’m kidnapped by agents of the trawlermen that might be taken out of my hands…


From → Blogging, Iceland, My Head

  1. Do you know about Icelandic online? ( You can create an account and use it for free. It’s what my professors recommended to me before moving here.

    • oooooh thank you! i didnt know it, but i’ve just signed up. I’ll be speaking like a native in no time 🙂

    • wow don’t they speak quickly! I have been reading my phrasebook aloud but at about a quarter of real speed it seems! thanks again for pointing me to this site, I need to get used to hearing it spoken

      • yeah, I’m just getting to the point where I can hear enough words to understand them! I actually went to the Icelandic service at my church for the first time this week and was surprised by how much I understood.

      • The only way to really learn a language is to dive in and be surrounded by it. Do you find it mentally tiring to have to concentrate on listening and talking? It makes you realise how much we take our native language for granted.
        I’m hoping they will be patient with me and talk slowly 🙂

      • Yes! It’s exhausting! Yes, people are usually really nice about speaking with you if you want, although unless you initiate, they will probably speak to you in English.

      • I’m sure virtually every conversation I have will be in English but even if I don’t get further than gođan daggin and ég heiti TRG I will still be pleased 🙂

  2. I miss you beyond all the missing in the entire world 😀 xox

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