Icelandic Language Day Celebrated Today Skip to content

Icelandic Language Day Celebrated Today

By Yelena

Photo: Berglind Jóhannsdóttir.

November 16 marks Icelandic Language Day, celebrated annually in Iceland since 1996. With immigration on the rise and enthusiasm for Icelandic culture growing abroad, there have never been more people interested in the Icelandic language. To mark the occasion, Iceland Review spoke with Sigurður Hermansson, an Icelandic teacher who recently launched the website Icelandic Made Easi(er).

Language Celebrated in Harpa

This year, Icelandic Language Day will be celebrated with an event at 4.00pm at Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavík, streamed live on the official website of the Government of Iceland. The event will include an address from the Minister of Education and Culture Lilja Alfreðsdóttir and the presentation of the Jónas Hallgrímsson Prize, granted to individuals for their contributions to the advancement of the Icelandic language.

November 16 was chosen for Icelandic Language Day as it coincides with the birthday of beloved Icelandic poet Jónas Hallgrímsson (1807-1845). Jónas was also translator, and many of the words he came up with to translate new concepts into Icelandic are still in use in the language today. One example is the Icelandic word for planet: reikistjarna (literally wandering star).

Interest in Icelandic Language Grows

Though there have never been more people learning Icelandic as a second language, Icelandic teacher Sigurður noticed that resources for independent learners were sorely lacking. “When I learned French and Spanish, I did it by living in the countries and making friends, I didn’t study formally. It was never hard to find a good free dictionary online or google a grammar question and find a clear answer right away,” Sigurður says. “But for people learning Icelandic, that’s not available.”

Sigurður Hermansson teaches Icelandic as a second language at the Tin Can Factory language school. When the school closed this spring during the first wave of COVID-19, he used the time to develop more resources for independent Icelandic learners.

“So many of my students at the Tin Can Factory were always asking the same questions. I thought it would be good to have a little collection of articles that would be a sort of FAQ of the Icelandic language. I got a bunch of beta readers for the articles and I got so many comments asking if I was going to put them online, so I decided to do that.”

More Online Resources for Icelandic Learners

The website, called Icelandic Made Easi(er), has had between 400-1,200 visitors per week since its launch. Sigurður says the feedback has been very positive. “The week I published the site, a student at the school came up to me – not one of my students – and said ‘thanks for the website, it’s fantastic.’ I realised then for the first time that it would help people beyond my immediate circle.”

In addition to his website, Sigurður is now working with to add an Icelandic-English dictionary to their website. “The first step in the process is to translate a huge bank of words from English to Icelandic.” He encourages any Icelandic speakers interested in helping out to get in touch with him. “Even ten minutes a day can help a lot!”

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