The Icelandic government has published a parliamentary resolution, consisting of 18 actions formulated by five ministries, to protect and bolster the Icelandic language. The plan has been uploaded to Samráðsgátt (the government’s online consultation portal) and emphasises supporting the Icelandic language, particularly in relation to children and young people, immigrants, and within digital spaces.
“A big change in attitude” towards Icelandic needed
Yesterday, the government’s parliamentary resolution for the protection and bolstering of the Icelandic language was made available for presentation and comment on the government’s online consultation portal (i.e. Samráðsgátt). There are a total of 18 actions formulated in cooperation between five ministries, whose goal is to prioritise the government’s projects in the years 2023-2026 when it comes to the protection and development of the language.
“The agreement of the governing parties emphasises support for the Icelandic language with attention being paid to supporting children of foreign origin and their families. I am very happy with the priorities in this action plan because they are in line with what we proposed when we formed the government. I am convinced that increased support for all those who move here and want to live here results in an increased quality of life for everyone,” Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir is quoted as saying in a press release on the government’s website.
The press release also quotes Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir, the Minister of Culture and Business Affairs: “We need a big change in attitude towards our language – Icelandic itself. Together, we need to unravel that apathy and that misplaced sense of obligingness that has given precedence to the English language. We have this language – this lifeline – which is part of our identity, expression, and our understanding of history. With these actions, we are sharpening priorities in favour of the Icelandic language. I encourage everyone to delve into the issue.”
Strengthening Icelandic in the digital world
As noted in the press release, a ministerial committee on the Icelandic language was set up in November 2022 at the Prime Minister’s proposal: “The committee’s role was to promote consultation and cooperation between ministries on issues relating to the Icelandic language and to ensure coordination where issues overlap. In addition to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Culture and Business Affairs; the Minister of Education and Children’s Affairs; the Minister of Social Affairs and the Labour Market; and the Minister of Education, Science, and Innovation have permanent seats on the committee.”
The press release goes on to say that in parallel with the meetings of the committee, work had been done to formulate actions related to the issues of the Icelandic language, taking into account the review of Icelandic language policy that took place at the level of the Icelandic Language Committee between 2020 and 2021 in addition to the progress of actions in parliamentary resolution no. 36/149, on promoting Icelandic as an official language in Iceland (approved in June 2019).
“Icelandic is a valuable resource that should be a creative and fruitful part of the environment. It is specifically noted that attention needs to be paid to the teaching of Icelandic to children and young people, adult immigrants, and Icelandic students in order to meet the changing conditions in society. Work must also continue to strengthen the position of Icelandic in the digital world with an emphasis on language technology.”
Key actions in the programme include:
- Job-related Icelandic learning for immigrants alongside work.
- Improved quality of Icelandic teaching for immigrants.
- Introduction of electronic assessment tests in Icelandic.
- Joint distance learning in practical Icelandic as a second language.
- Icelandic for all – requirements should be made for immigrants to acquire basic skills in Icelandic and incentives to do so strengthened.
- Strengthening the Icelandic language skills of staff in kindergartens and primary schools and after-hours activities.
- A web portal for sharing electronic learning materials for all school levels.
- Coordinated procedures for receiving, teaching and serving children with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds with a special emphasis on Icelandic as a second language.
- Regular measurements of attitudes towards the language.
The proposed legislation will be open for comment on Samráðsgátt until July 10.