Eiríkur Rögnvaldsson, Professor Emeritus at Háskóli Íslands, has recently expressed the need for better Icelandic education in an interview with Vísir.
Eiríkur stated that foreign labour is projected to play a larger role in Iceland’s economy in the coming years, and that it is imperative to provide immigrants with more opportunities to learn Icelandic.
Specifically, he fears that Iceland’s workforce may split into an Icelandic-speaking overclass with an English-speaking underclass in the service, restaurant, and hotel industries.
“I think it’s quite clear that if we want to continue the Icelandic language, then we have to do something,” Eiríkur stated.
Additionally, he called for more and better teaching materials and courses to be offered to foreign workers. “It must be possible for people to study Icelandic during working hours and so on,” he said.
He has been critical of Icelandic prescriptivists in the past, saying that an image of a pristine Icelandic language that does not change with the times and Iceland’s shifting demographics cannot be continued. Eiríkur has also called for the need for more openness in the Icelandic language community, saying that it is too easy for foreigners to revert to English, and not integrate themselves into life in Iceland.
Eiríkur is also active as the moderator of a popular Facebook page, Málspjall, in which Icelanders discuss grammar, innovation, and other current issues with the Icelandic language and its evolution.
On Icelandic language education and policy, read more of our coverage here.