Taking a class is the most popular way of getting an introduction to the language (it’s also a great way to meet people if you’re new to the country) and most foreigners have tried one at least once. A lot of your success depends on the teacher you have: some will be able to instill in you a great and permanent love of the language, while others will make you prefer waxing your legs to attending class.
This method of learning Icelandic costs quite a bit, but many employers and most unions will cover a lot, or all, or the cost so make sure you look into this option. Sadly, the Námsflokkar Reykjavíkur School has recently closed its doors thus limiting the number of teaching institutions.
Department of Continuing Education at the University of Iceland
Tel. 525 – 4944
According to its website, the Department of Continuing Education has a policy of “ambitious and challenging courses in Icelandic” and the classes here generally require more work than at Mímir (there are even exams at the end). Priority is given to those who have completed some higher education, and the focus tends to be slightly more academic than at other schools. Courses are of high quality and therefore high price.
The division of courses has changed slightly and beginning in autumn 2005, students can choose from either verbal or written expression. Each course runs twice a week for a total of four hours per week, and there are four levels to choose from. Cost is 32,800 ISK for written expression and 44,800 for oral expression.
Unfortunately, the deadline for autumn courses was 15 August, but there will be new groups running from January.
Mímir offers numerous classes in Icelandic both during the day and evening. Students can take courses at Mímir’s site on Grensásvegur either once or twice a week. There are courses in spoken or written Icelandic at numerous levels from absolute beginner to advanced. There is less pressure than at the university courses, which is good for those without a lot of spare time. Mímir is also much cheaper, but you will probably have to take more courses than at the university to get to the same level.
Registration for the autumn session begins on 1 September and classes start on the 21st. Costs have not yet be finalized but are likely to be around 22,000 ISK.
Mímir can also organize private tutors.
Icelandic for Foreign Students Bachelor of Arts program,
University of Iceland
For the truly keen, there is a full-time degree course in Icelandic for Foreign Students offered at the university. Students are taught the language in the first year, as well as history, politics, and literature, and subsequent years are taught solely in Icelandic. Applications are due the winter before following September, and the normal requirements for a bachelor’s degree apply.
It is possible to hire a private tutor in Icelandic and this is a good option for those with difficult schedules or those who need to focus on one particular aspect of the language. If you get together with a few friends, you could probably hire a tutor as a small group.
Mímir (see above) can arrange for personal tutors, or try visiting the website of the Intercultural Centre, www.ahus.is where you can find lots of information on sources for Icelandic classes (some of which is out of date, though).
BOOKS AND CDs
The main bookstores downtown all have a good selection of teach-yourself guides to the language. Some of them, like the “Learning Icelandic” series, are meant to accompany a taught course. Others, like the World Talk Icelandic CD, provide a good and cheap basic introduction to the language.
If you want to try reading on your own, the children’s book Blómin á þakinu (Flowers on the Roof) by Ingibjörg Siguðardóttir has been read by virtually every newcomer to the country. Advanced beginners may enjoy the pre-teen story Flautan og vindurinn (The Flute and the Wind) by Steinunn Jóhannesdóttir, the raciest story I have ever been assigned for a course.
Yes, it’s possible to get paid and learn Icelandic at the same time. There are places in Iceland that will hire you without much experience and will expect you to learn the language the hard way, just by diving right into things. Working at a local kindergarten is the profession most cited for this purpose, and many people swear this was their best introduction to the language. You will very quickly pick up what the word “búin(n)”, delivered in a plaintive cry, means.
It is of course possible to learn Icelandic simply by listening to the radio, practicing in conversations and reading the newspaper (in addition to this fine publication of course). It’s a method that is not for the complacent, but it’s about as cost effective as you can get.
Those here because of an Icelandic partner should be adamant about having the opportunity to practice at home. Nothing puts the spice back in a relationship like a little discussion on noun declensions over dinner.
If you’re losing motivation, remember that Icelandic is one of the best languages to use when you’re abroad and want to gossip about people near you without them understanding. Surely all the effort is worth it for that!
Gangi ykkur vel!