From Iceland — Use Of English At Keflavík Airport Exception To Nordic Norm

Use Of English At Keflavík Airport Exception To Nordic Norm

Published February 22, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
OhanaUnited/Wikimedia Commons

English has now taken place of prominence on signs at Keflavík International Airport, bucking a trend that persists across Nordic airports.

Vísir reports that travelers may have noticed many new changes to the look of the airport, amongst them that English is the prominent language used on official signage now.

The decision has not gone without criticism, with some academics contending that Icelandic should remain the prominent language used on the signs.

“At an airport, of course information needs to be available in other languages, and it is natural to choose a language that most people speak,” Guðrún Kvaran, a professor of Icelandic and the chairperson of the Icelandic Language Committee, told reporters. “But that language should never be featured more prominently than Icelandic.”

The switch was made, airport spokespeople say, due to the high volume of foreign travelers at the airport, who outnumber Icelanders many times over. However, foreign travelers also outnumber domestic ones in other Nordic airports as well, but English is still given secondary prominence.

As the website Turisti points out, airports in Norway, Sweden and Finland all place their native languages in first prominence on their official signage. This is also the case in many airports in Germany, France and Spain.

It is unknown if Keflavík Airport was inundated by complaints from foreign travelers, prompting the decision. Icelandic is still used on official signage at Keflavík; it just takes second place to English.

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