From Iceland — Sour Grape

Sour Grape

Published July 28, 2006

Sour Grape

I gave you a quick glance on line before my visit to Iceland. I was planning on sending you a correction to one of your articles, I was going to haughtily inform you of your mistake: Quentin Tarantino does not OWN Marimax.
My being from Los Angeles and all, I’m hip to such matters. But then while there, I devoured your paper cover to cover, I realized that maybe you already know who owns Marimax (or who did until recently) and that the writer was being sarcastic or cute. 
But more importantly. I was taken back to two years ago when comparable weeklies, The LA Weekly and The Village Voice, used to be vital.
What a great read! I learned more and got a better insight into American positions than I have from the American press in years.
Hopefully you won’t end up part of corporate mergers and restructuring and whoring for advertisers like your American cousins have.
Besides seeing my first blow-hole and ice glacier, your paper was my other favourite discovery I made in Iceland.
– Sean Sweeney
Well, Sean, that’s a generous letter. I should accept a compliment and walk away. We’re really trying here, and that’s probably coming across. There are probably good weeklies in America somewhere. We were reading over Seattle’s The Stranger, and we were impressed until the editor, Dan Savage, ditched us on a scheduled interview to talk about gay pride.
Damn it, Sean. We’re supposed to be nasty and witty in our responses. Uh. I wrote the Quentin article, and we weren’t intending to say Tarantino owned Miramax, which you spelled in an interesting fashion, but that his new deal with the Weinstein Brothers would, in his words, make him a kind of co-owner.
About our overall quality, again, the main thing that we see, as writers and people putting out a paper, is that we’d like to do a lot better. So if we’re looking good, that just means that the U.S. press is in a big hole. As for selling out, you just gave us a quote that we can use in our marketing to try to get some money and go corporate: “‘Besides seeing my first blow-hole and ice glacier, your paper was my other favourite discovery I made in Iceland,’” -Sean Sweeney. Yeah, that’ll work just fine. I’m hoping you’re rich. We could put your name and income level next to it. I hope to cash in shortly and buy a nice pair of shoes.
I’ve just got back from a holiday in Reykjavik and didn’t get round to buying your Inside Reykjavik book, I’ve had a search on the web but I can’t seem to find it, is there anywhere on the internet, or in England, I could buy the book?
Sadly, you can’t buy our book abroad. Not yet. Soon, our Icelandic publisher, Edda Press, will release it in England. But we are still in negotiations with American publishers. And our Icelandic publisher does not conduct business online, as far as we know.
We have received numerous complaints that our book is not available outside of Iceland, and that our book is not available at duty-free shops. We have been informed that the book will be available at duty-free shops soon, but that the best possible course of action is to buy at least a dozen books whenever you see them, then take them back to your native countries and mark up the price and make millions.
Ágæta ritstjórn
Mér var bent á viðtal við Paul Nikolov eftir Bart Cameron í nýjasta
tölublaði Grapevine:
Bart hefur orðið:
Technical question. When you’re interviewed or if you debate, what language will you speak? I ask because many constituents still have difficulty with Icelandic, based on the fact that, as of yet, it is difficult to get instruction in the language. Our readers need no reminding, but it is difficult to find a course inside Iceland, and learning Icelandic outside of Iceland is almost impossible-there is one course sometimes offered in America, but that is only for beginners; there is Old Norse instruction, which, not surprisingly, doesn’t prepare you that well for Modern Icelandic. Unless you get into the courses in London, or in Scandinavia, you’re not even going to get the opportunity to hear the language before you move here.
Paul hefur orðið:
Ha. In America there’s the outdated grammar book and a CD.
Bart er greinilega illa upplýstur um stöðu þessara mála. Þótt ég sé
sammála því meginsjónarmiði sem kemur fram í orðum hans að skortur sé enn á námsframboði í íslensku sem öðru og erlendu máli er staðan ekki svo slæm sem hann lætur í veðri vaka.
Í fyrsta lagi hefur verið unnið mikið í þessum málum við Háskóla Íslands á undanförnum árum: aukið námsframboð, kennslugögn bætt og boðið upp á námskeið í kennslufræði íslensku sem öðru og erlendu máli. Um þetta er unnt að fá upplýsingar hjá hugvísindadeild.
Í öðru lagi er nútímaíslenska kennd við háskóla víða í Evrópu og einnig við háskóla í Japan. Þá er íslenskudeild við Manitobaháskóla í Kanada og íslenskunámskeið eru við Brigham Young háskóla í Utah, við
Wisconsinháskóla í Madison og við Minnesotaháskóla í Minneapolis. Um þessa kennslu er hægt að fá nokkrar upplýsingar á vefsvæði SSN: Upplýsingarnar eru þó í endurskoðun og henni ekki að fullu lokið. Sjálfur hef ég unnið að málefnum íslenskukennslu við erlenda háskóla í meira en 18 ár og er reiðubúinn til að gefa fyllri upplýsingar ef þess er óskað.
Ennfremur vil ég benda blaðamannninum á vefnámskeiðið Icelandic online:
Það er öllum opið til frjálsra afnota alls staðar í heiminum hafi þeir tölvu og netsamband. Heimsóknir á námskeiðið á degi hverjum eru meira en 300. Fjölmargir hafa lært undirstöðuatriði í íslensku með hjálp námskeiðsins. Með haustinu mun Tungumálamiðstöð Háskólans bjóða
upp á fjarnám í tengslum við efnið. Upplýsingar um Icelandic Online
er unnt að fá hjá Kolbrúnu Friðriksdóttur verkefisstjóra:
Ég vona að Grapevine vilji hafa það sem sannara reynist og dreifi réttum upplýsingum um kennslu í íslensku sem öðru og erlendu máli. Ég leyfi mér að benda blaðinu á að SSN mun efna til ráðstefnu í H.Í. um kennslu og rannsóknir á þessu sviði um miðjan ágúst. Upplýsingar um ráðstefnuna og dagskrá er að finna á vef stofnunarinnar. Á ráðstefnunni verða m.a. íslenskukennarar við erlenda háskóla.
Með vinsemd
Úlfar Bragason
Stofnun Sigurðar Nordals
The question on the table: is it possible to get advanced Icelandic instruction before arriving in Iceland for the typical non-linguist immigrant? For example, can one go to night school and pick up Icelandic as one can pick up French or Italian? If one cannot gain exposure to the language, how does this affect life in Iceland for the new batches of immigrants?
Another question: is it possible for an immigrant to attend classes and learn Icelandic inside Iceland? When and where? At what budget? Given that an immigrant is required to be working, and have a heavy schedule just to get a visa, and given that most immigrants live away from the capital area, has the university system, and more importantly, the government that funds the university system, made a good faith effort towards 10 percent of the population?
I am happy to see the instructional website that you point out, and I am happy to see language courses increasing in number – we will gladly promote these courses in our English-language publication. But our most frequent letters to the editor are complaints about Icelandic instruction – both the quality, even – or especially – at Háskóli Íslands, a program I myself attended briefly – and the number of courses, being so few and at difficult times for students with jobs.
I, personally, blame the students. It is obvious that they aren’t trying. It is also obvious that those who want to learn Icelandic can find a way. This is demonstrated in the immensely popular Icelandic-language newspaper covering culture and politics that has arisen among immigrants in the last three years.
Please, if there are more courses, or if it is easier to gain access to them, let us know. And if there are places away from Iceland that have high success rates in teaching Icelandic, again, let us know. Our readers are desperate. This directly affects their quality of life – if you don’t speak Icelandic well in Iceland, as I and a group of professionals with graduate degrees were told in an adult education class at HÍ, you will never get anything more than manual labour.
My opinion is that language education is not at the level it should be, and, honestly, this affects Icelanders’ quality of life. As the educational system stands, if an Icelander chooses a foreign partner, he or she can expect their partner to have very little chance of getting instruction in a language that makes up the core of the national identity of Iceland. Partners must either have the patience of the lobotomised, or have no other choice at all. Many people I know who aren’t linguists eventually give up and leave.
Finally, you brought this up because I asked Paul Nikolov to speak English in his interviews. Paul is asking the government to get serious about the immigrant community, and to get very serious about their language. It is long past time for this. I stand by my statement that this debate should be held in multiple languages until a legitimate system for teaching Icelandic is established. I don’t understand why a party dealing with immigrant issues and asking for proper instruction of Icelandic would speak in the language that foreigners are denied access to.

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