70% of Icelanders May Have Already Had COVID-19

COVID-19 briefing Iceland Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason wrote in his latest column on covid.is that he estimates the actual number of Icelanders who have been infected with the coronavirus to be as much as double the number of people formally diagnosed. That would mean that around 70% of Icelanders have had COVID-19.

Should that be the case, Iceland could reach the pandemic’s peak in the next few weeks, after which time diagnoses will start to drop, Þórólfur predicts.

COVID-19 is still a serious problem

In his column, Þórólfur reminds the public that COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly through the community, and though the number of tests being conducted is decreasing that doesn’t mean cases are dropping.

3,367 cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in Iceland on Feb. 28 — 3,215 through rapid testing and 152 through PCR.

He also said the health care system is feeling the pressure.

“At Landspítali, about 10 individuals are admitted daily with or due to COVID-19, and slightly less are discharged,” Þórólfur wrote. “Today, 55 people are in hospital with/due to the disease, three of them in the intensive care unit, all on a ventilator.”

He says it is important that everyone realizes that COVID-19 is still a significant health issue in Iceland, despite official disease control measures being lifted. “Everyone is encouraged to continue to use individual disease control measures aimed at delaying the spread of COVID-19 and preventing uncontrollable strain on our healthcare system.”

Of Lamb and Legends

Valdimar Jóhannsson

Valdimar Jóhannsson is not a man of many words, preferring a visual medium to express himself. That’s what shaped his whole approach to his first feature film, Lamb. Years in the making, the film premiered last year at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section, winning the Originality Prize, going on to garner accolades and become a sleeper hit all over the world. At the time of writing, the film is longlisted for a BAFTA nomination, shortlisted for an Oscar nomination, and has become the highest-grossing Icelandic film ever screened in the US. But it all started with a simple sketch outlining a fantastical figure – a new addition to Iceland’s folklore.

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Ice in His Veins

the ash-streaked ice walls of the Sapphire Ice Cave.

Upon entering the cave, I become immediately wary of its integrity. It would be a rather foolish way to go. This apprehension endures for all of two minutes, however,
as the mind, seemingly bored by its own alarm, begins to wander. Few profound thoughts emerge, aside from the somewhat flaccid observation that being inside an ice cave is vaguely like standing inside an Iittala glass. After another two minutes, the unease has dissipated completely, and later, I find myself following our guide deeper and deeper into the darkness, utterly devoid of any reservations.

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Samherji Journalist Wins Appeal Against Northeast Iceland Police

The Northeast Iceland District Court has ruled on Stundin journalist Aðalsteinn Kjartansson’s appeal to determine the legality of a police investigation into his and other journalists’ alleged distribution of sexual material from the stolen phone of a Samherji ship captain. The judge concluded that Northeast Iceland Police chief Páley Borgþórsdóttir was wrong to give official defendant status to Aðalsteinn on those grounds, Vísir reports.

As previously reported, four journalists are under investigation by Northeast Iceland Police. While it initially appeared the investigation was into the journalists’ reporting on leaked communications between several Samherji employees calling themselves the company’s “guerrilla division.” However, they were instead accused of violating Articles 228 and 229 of the Penal Code — legislation implemented to protect victims of digital sexual violence. They were given the legal status of defendants in the case.

A law isn’t broken by a journalist receiving data

As per news site Stundin, the Northeast Iceland District Court determined the journalists were not considered to have breached the law simply for receiving and viewing sensitive personal data since it is part of a journalist’s job to receive data and tips and determine if it is in the public interest to pursue them.

The ruling notes that, in general, the mere act of receiving and opening data sent without the recipient’s consent is not a criminal offence.

A case built on sand?

The district court’s verdict also states that it cannot be concluded from police documents that ship captain Páll Steingrímsson contacted the police because of the personal videos on his phone, which the police claimed to be the reason for Aðalsteinn being named as a defendant.

Gunnar Ingi Jóhannsson, Aðalsteinn’s lawyer, told Stundin the ruling confirms his argument that “the police’s case against the journalists is built on sand.”

Housing Shortage Won’t Prohibit Iceland Receiving Ukrainian Refugees

Dómsmálaráðherra Ríkisstjórn Alþingi Jón Gunarsson

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said Monday that issues surrounding the Directorate of Immigration’s housing facilities will not deter or delay Iceland’s reception of refugees from Ukraine, and preparations are already underway, Vísir reports.

Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson told Vísir last week that “there is a real state of emergency at the Directorate of Immigration (ÚTL),” exacerbated by the unwillingness of asylum seekers in Iceland to undergo PCR testing required as a condition of their deportation from the country. He said the Directorate’s difficulties in carrying out deportations of some refugees is resulting in less housing and fewer facilities available to welcome other refugees that the government is willing to welcome

During question period in Alþingi Monday, Social Democratic Alliance MP Helga Vala Helgadóttir called the Minister of Justice’s comments unacceptable and asked the Prime Minister if they were reflective of the government’s policy.

Katrín replied that many people are in very vulnerable positions and it matters how those groups are talked about.

Furthermore, she said the status of ÚTL’s housing will not hinder Iceland’s reception of Ukrainian refugees. Katrín noted that the Minister of Social Affairs had already met with the Refugee Committee and preparations had already begun to receive them.

The Prime Minister reminded Alþingi that half a million Ukrainians have already fled the country since the Russian armed forces began their invasion on Feb. 24, and that figure could increase to four to five million. She said a large proportion of those who have fled will likely want to return to their home country when the situation allows, so both short- and long-term arrangements need to be considered.

“I would like to note that it is not long since the situation deteriorated in Afghanistan and the Icelandic government initially decided to receive a certain number of people and then decided to receive a larger number of Afghan refugees because we felt it was important to take responsibility for the global community. In relative terms, we actually welcomed more people than other Nordic countries did on that occasion. So when we look at what has previously been done, we have not shied away from taking responsibility,” Katrín said.

Is there an app or website where I can learn Icelandic?

learning Icelandic language online

Online resources for learning Icelandic have been steadily increasing over recent years, and thankfully so, as more and more people are interested in learning the language. Whether you are living in Iceland, coming to visit, or just have an interest in the language, there are many online resources available to assist your learning. Here are a few of them.

Icelandic Online

Icelandic Online is a comprehensive online platform set up by the University of Iceland to teach Icelandic as a second language. The material is organised into courses, ranging from “survival” to advanced, and you can even hire a real-life tutor to guide you through the process. There is a lot of in-depth material here, which is great for grammar buffs but can be somewhat overwhelming for beginners. The survival course for beginners is aimed at people living in Iceland who want to learn the language. It includes interactive, visual and audio exercises for learning Icelandic for everyday life in an easy way.

Viltu læra íslensku? video series

If you are looking for something a bit more casual, Viltu læra íslensku? is a series of 21 subtitled videos that help put basic Icelandic vocabulary into context. The videos contain scenarios based on both real-life situations and a classroom setting. Each video is followed by exercises to help you internalise the vocabulary. Like Icelandic Online, the material is a little dated, but it is nevertheless very helpful and accessible for beginners.

Everyday life situations covered by the series include going to the dentist, taking the bus, going to the grocery store, looking for an apartment and visiting a restaurant.

Read more: Tongue Twister – Why many foreigners struggle to learn Icelandic

Apps

Compared to other languages, apps for learning Icelandic are few and far between, though a few options are available. Memrise and Drops are a multi-language apps that support Icelandic. Pimsleur is another resource for Icelandic, focusing on speaking through audio lessons. It focuses on conversational skills by incorporating dialogue. Íslenska (available on iOS) helps practice tricky Icelandic declensions. Duolingo is not yet available for Icelandic at the time of writing, but a petition has been set up to urge Duolingo to add Icelandic to its portfolio.

IceFlash 4K is a flashcard app that contains the 4,000 most common words in Icelandic, with translations into English, Polish, Chinese, or Ukrainian.

Orðagull is supposed to strengthen vocabulary, memory, auditory understanding and speech. It is available on iOs and Android.

In addition to the basics of grammar, building vocabulary is the key to making progress. Many find flashcard apps to be the most useful in building vocabulary. Anki is a popular app available on both Android and iOs. Its interface is a little bit dated, but the Android version is free, and many people swear by it. Quizlet is also a popular website and app used by students and teachers throughout the world. You can find other sets made by language learners, or else make your own custom-tailored deck.

LP Icelandic offers practice driven memorisation through multiple-choice tests on Icelandic vocabulary and grammar. Answers you give are instantly confirmed or corrected. Label Icelandic is another app available on Android that covers Icelandic grammar with native voicing and a range of exercises.

Mango Languages is another option that many find useful. It is largely used by organisations such as universities, companies, and libraries, so an individual membership may cost money, but you may already have access to it through your local library, or if you’re a student, your university.

Finally, LingQ is a popular language-learning app that offers Icelandic. This app puts special emphasis on native material, so you will read, listen to, and watch authentic material while you learn. The app also has a built-in dictionary feature that allows you to highlight and save new words.

Learning with others

The Facebook group Practice and Learn Icelandic has a document listing many more resources for learning Icelandic, including beyond the web. It’s also a great forum to ask questions and connect with other Icelandic learners.

It is a pricier option, but some may also find the help of a private tutor to be beneficial. Two popular sites for online language tutoring are iTalki and Preply.

The Reykjavík Public Library also offers group Icelandic practice, and even group board gaming in Icelandic on the weekend. Check it out under their Facebook events.

Learning Icelandic can be a challenge, but it is crucial to immerse yourself in Icelandic culture and society.

YouTube channels

There are also several YouTube channels that can help with Icelandic grammar, pronunciation and practical conversation tips. Here are a few:

The Cool Icelandic Lessons channel has for example vocabulary for fruits, 50 most common Icelandic names for women and 50 for men, numbers and colours. It also covers pronunciation for some towns and other locations in Iceland and questions including why, who, how etc. Learn Icelandic covers the pronunciation of the Icelandic alphabet, 10 key verbs in Icelandic and common greetings. Max Naylor is a teacher of Icelandic and in his channel, he explains time expressions, possessive adjectives, the present tense of verbs and possessive pronouns. Max also has the website Icelandic Grammar Reference, a guide to the grammar of the Icelandic language.

If you are familiar with the Smurfs from childhood, the Smurfs in Icelandic might be of help. There are several episodes on YouTube. Cartoons and other children’s TV material can be a great way to learn a new language, including Icelandic, as the vocabulary is relatively simple, and you should be able to get some context from the visual part as well.

Listening to Icelandic music

Listening to music is a good way to learn languages as our brains are wired to remember lyrics that can be associated with the songs that accompany them. There are various artists that can be recommended in terms of learning Icelandic, e.g. modern ones such as Moses Hightower, GDRN, Svavar Knútur, Prins Póló, Brek and KK. Classic Icelandic popular musicians include Vilhjálmur Vilhjálmsson (aka. Villi Vill), Ellý Vilhjálms, Ragnar Bjarnason (aka. Raggi Bjarna) and Hljómar. On YouTube, you can find some songs with lyrics and even some with translations of the lyrics as well:

  • Krummavísur is an Icelandic folk song about a raven in harsh winter conditions
  • Á Sprengisandi is another folk song about a horse-riding trip through various dangers of the land in old times
  • Vor í Vaglaskógi is an old Icelandic song that Kaleo covered some years back in this version.

Icelandic dictionaries

There are several dictionaries that can be recommended for Icelandic language, between English and Icelandic and with definitions in Icelandic. BÍN is a good guide to declensions in Icelandic, which many foreigners find difficult to learn. Declensions are a more advanced part of the language, do not be discouraged if you find the declension of Icelandic words difficult and remember that the most important thing is being understood. If you use the right words, people will often understand you even though you are not using every word in the right form for the context.

On Málið.is, you can search various Icelandic dictionaries at once, including the Dictionary of Modern Icelandic (is. Íslensk nútímamálsorðabók), BÍN, The Icelandic Spelling Dictionary (is. Íslensk stafsetningarorðabók) and the Term Bank (is. Íðorðabankinn).

Glosbe offers English-Icelandic and Icelandic-English dictionaries among its language combinations and shows examples of how the terms are used in sentences for a better understanding of context.

The University of Wisconsin also offers an online dictionary for Icelandic. Note that using an online Icelandic dictionary often requires some previous knowledge of grammar. Because of Icelandic’s inflection system, a word will change depending on how it is used. You therefore will often need to tell what the base form of a word is based on its endings in order to look it up in the dictionary. If you don’t know, however, you can often enter the word in BIN to get the entry for it.

The biggest collection of dictionaries in Icelandic is on Snara.is, access to that is available for a limited fee. Snara searches in several bilingual dictionaries of Icelandic and other languages, including English, German, Spanish, French, Polish and Italian.

Finally, we would be remiss to not mention Google Translate. It is quite intelligent and is often the fastest way for translating large blocks of text. You will of course learn less if you use this in place of learning Icelandic grammar and vocabulary, but it can be a legitimate tool in your language-learning journey.