Improving the Icelandic Language on Devices

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir / Mennta- og menningarmálaráðherra.

An Icelandic delegation has arrived in the United States to meet with tech companies about the importance of the Icelandic language being integrated into devices, RÚV reports. Iceland’s delegation is headed by President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and Minister of Culture and Trade Lilja D. Alfreðsdóttir.

Lilja told the national broadcaster there needs to be broad collaboration in order to ensure the digital future of Icelandic language. She extended praise to computer scientists and entrepreneurs for the progress Iceland has made. Representatives from Apple said few countries have come as far as Iceland in developing language technology.

“Few issues are as important to me as Icelandic, it is the basis of everything we do and stand for,” said Lilja, who is working on four core projects of the Icelandic government’s language technology program.

Dictating in Icelandic

Among the innovations on the Icelandic delegation’s wish list is speech recognition that provides the ability to communicate verbally with devices. This is of particular importance for increasing the accessibility of those unable to type text.

Speech synthesizers are also being developed that can read Icelandic text clearly, to sound natural and be more easily understood, as are translation programs, auto-correct tools and language databases.

Historical Relics Unearthed on Grímsey

While undertaking excavations in preparation of building a new church on Grímsey, archeologists unearthed relics that indicate humans inhabited the island since shortly after the settlement of Iceland in 870.

The island’s church burned to the ground in September 2021, and plans were underway to erect the new church on the same footprint. However, the unexpected historical findings on the site mean the new church will be built on another plot of land, just four metres to the east.

Among the initial findings on the site of the old church building are the remnants of a church dating to the year 1300, including the cemetery wall of the oldest known church on Grímsey, and graves.

“When this was discovered, it was decided to move the (new) church to protect these graves,” archeologist Hildur Gestsdóttir told RÚV.

The old church

The church that burned down was named Miðgarðakirkja, and was built out of driftwood in 1867. In 1932, it was moved further away from the neighbouring farm due to risk of fire and a tower and choir loft were built on to the structure. The church underwent extensive renovations in 1956 and was reconsecrated that year. The renovation included wood carvings made by Deacon Einar Einarsson both on the outside and inside of the building. Miðgarðakirkja was protected in 1990.

Grímsey island is the northernmost point of Iceland and has 67 inhabitants.

First State Visit to Greenland in 24 years

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir embarked this week on the first official visit of an Icelandic leader to Greenland since 1998. She was in Nuuk at the invitation of Greenlandic Prime Minister Múte B. Egede.

The two leaders discussed opportunities for increased cooperation between Iceland and Greenland. Specific points of focus were a free trade agreement, fisheries and tourism, education and research, equality and energy and the climate crisis. Another meeting is already in the works for later this year to continue to build on the ideas presented this week.

During her visit, Katrín also met with Greenland’s Minister of Finance Naaju Nathanielsen to discuss the state of the countries respective economies. She also paid a visit to the Greenlandic Parliament, the National Museum of Greenland, the University of Nuuk, and met with Greenlandic women from the from politics, business, culture and the university to discuss the challenges and opportunities they face and parallels between Iceland and Greenland.