To the editor of the Reykjavik Grapevine,
My name is Marjorie and I live in Texas. I am learning Icelandic and feel passionate about it. I’ve heard that Icelandic is being undermined by English and it scares me. I am writing this letter in both English and Icelandic.
Here is what I say: multiculturalism can stay. You do not need to “get rid” of it to preserve the language. I have a compromise: any immigrants settling in Iceland can learn Icelandic as a second language so that Icelandic will be preserved. Tourists can do the same.
It is out of love—and determination for the Icelandic language—that I write this. Icelandic must not die. Þetta reddast! Þetta reddast!
Thanks for writing to us—in both English and Icelandic no less! Your enthusiasm is palpable, and we like that. You provide some concise solutions for the problems befalling Icelandic, but sadly, they may fall a bit short.
While encouraging tourists and immigrants to learn Icelandic may help a little to preserve our language, it’s the globalised English-speaking media which plays the biggest role in creating a culture that’s comfortable defaulting to English. You can teach a foreigner Icelandic, Marjorie, but you can’t turn off the internet.
Or can you? We admit that when this letter arrived at the door of the Grapevine office, we were surprised to see its writer was a 17-year-old girl. Was Facebook down? You know we have Snapchat, right?
Good luck with the Icelandic lessons!