Toshiki Toma, a priest of the national church who specializes in working with immigrants, said that a radio host who scolded a foreign caller for not speaking Icelandic was “very insulting”.
The incident in question happened on Monday, also known as The Day of the Icelandic Tongue. Arnþrúður Karlsdóttir, the director of radio station Útvarps Saga, received a phone call from a foreign woman while hosting a morning talk show. The woman calling in did not speak Icelandic, but the host would not permit her to speak English. Arnþrúður told her, “It is the Day of the Icelandic Tongue today and it is the bare minimum that you’d show us the respect of speaking Icelandic on this day, besides which the Icelandic media is obliged to broadcast in Icelandic. If you intend to live in Iceland, speak Icelandic. That’s how it is.”
Toma, in an article he wrote to Vísir, says that he has lived in Iceland for 18 years and still hasn’t completely mastered the language, although he has nothing but respect for the language. “The radio host’s treatment of this foreign girl was not pretty. It was very insulting,” he writes in part.
“First of all, she scolded the girl as if she were neglecting to learn Icelandic. How does she know that?,” he writes. “The girl could be learning Icelandic but doesn’t feel confident enough to speak it. This is pure prejudice on behalf of the radio host. Second of all, is it disrespect for Icelandic that people speak English or any other language on the Day of the Icelandic Tongue? Should people who don’t speak Icelandic just be quiet on this day? Is that part of the holiday? I don’t understand the logic.”
Toma concludes by saying, “It is good to have respect for Icelandic. But the criteria for a human being should not be measured on whether or not they speak Icelandic well.”