There are better ways to learn Icelandic than shelling out fistfuls of cash to attend classes. You can watch English language television, for example, and follow the Icelandic text underneath. You could also head out into the country and try to find work on a farm. Or you could head to your nearest bookstore and buy some children’s books. Learning Icelandic through children’s books is perhaps not the best way to get an ear for the language, but once you manage to read one completely, it can help boost your confidence enough to try speaking Icelandic.
If you choose this last option, we highly recommend you buy Snúður skiptir um hlutverk (Snúður changes roles), a heart-wrenching tale about a kitten who learns the value of sharing. Although originally by French author Pierre Probst, who named the main character “Pouf,” these books have been a part of Icelandic culture for decades. This was the very first book we were able to read from cover-to-cover, albeit with some help from a dictionary, after being in Iceland for merely two months.
In Snúður skiptir um hlutverk, we meet Snúður, a lazy, spoiled fluffy white kitten who likes nothing better than to lie around the house in his basket, eating cupcakes and drinking cream. Apart from lactose intolerance, Snúður also has to contend with a lack of friends. He goes to his window one day and asks a butterfly to be his friend. The butterfly responds by flying away. Snúður then goes outside and asks a mouse to be his friend. Again, Snúður is shot down. He tries one more time by asking a bird to be his friend. The bird declines. Heartbroken, he bursts into tears (which I have to admit, made me really sad). After dipping himself in blue paint to disguise himself – which works briefly in convincing the bird and the mouse to play with him – a sudden rain storm washes off his paint and reveals to the bird and mouse that their cool new friend is really just lame old Snúður, and they ditch him. And just why are Snúður’s efforts to revoke the predator-prey relationship snubbed? Snúður’s grandfather explains to him that he’s a selfish twat who never shares his cupcakes and cream. Hence, Snúður learns a valuable lesson: if you want to make friends, offering them gifts works far better than trying to talk to them.
While we’re not exactly sure this is a good lesson to teach your children, if you want to begin to understand the basics of Icelandic, we can highly recommend Snúður skiptir um hlutverk.
Snúður skiptir um hlutverk (Snúður changes roles)
Pierre Probst – Setberg Publishing
490 ISK. Available at Mál og Menning bookstore, Laugavegur 18, 9:00-22:00 weekdays, 10:00-22:00 weekends.
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