Part 4: Meet The Foreigners Learning Icelandic - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Part 4: Meet The Foreigners Learning Icelandic

Published November 16, 2017

Do you want to learn Icelandic? Well, today is the Day of the Icelandic Tongue, where we honour this unique and colourful language. The number of speakers is growing every year, thanks in no small part to the people who move to Iceland and learn the language. Photographer Varvara Lozenko met some of the students who’ve devoted themselves to studying Icelandic, and they shared their thoughts on what motivated them to delve into this daunting but enchanting language.

Laura López

How old are you?

25.

Where are you from?

Mexico City.

Why did you decide to start learning Icelandic?

Back in 1973, my dad was studying architecture in México when a strike started in his university. He then came to Iceland as a part of International Culture Youth Exchange. When he went back, some Icelandic friends went to México too, spent some years there and learned Spanish. Everyone went back home but the friendship was never broken. Many years later, when I turned 16, the kids and friends of my father’s Icelandic friends started arriving every summer to my house in México. So in 2015, I decided to come here. I guess I decided to study Icelandic because, to a certain extent, it has always been a part of my life and had always captivated me.

Poet Jónas Hallgrímsson is a national hero in Iceland because of his contribution to the formation of the Icelandic language. Can you name a poet from your home country who is similarly regarded as a national hero through a contribution to the country’s language/literature/poetry?

The best example I can think of is probably Octavio Paz, whose research and work on our language’s origin and personality have earned him much love and respect.

What is similar between Iceland and your home country? What is the biggest difference?

The biggest similarity is the warmth of people. Icelandic people are often portrayed as distant and cold, I don’t think this could be any further away from how they really are. I somehow believe they are the Latin version of all Europeans and most of the Icelanders I’ve had the pleasure to meet have been as warm and welcoming as Mexicans would always be to anyone. The main difference can go from weather to traffic jam, the country’s minimum wage, the feeling of being safe, religion’s perception, gender equality….

What is your favourite place in Reykjavík and why?

Any bakery on any street.

Is learning Icelandic making your life different? In what way?

First and foremost it’s been making it harder. Then again, it’s also been making it far more poetic. The grammatical structure of sentences and ideas is so different and special and interesting that learning it has become almost addictive.

Are you happy?

Very much.

 

Thí Thanh Huong Nguen

How old are you?

24.

Where are you from?

Vietnam.

Why did you decide to start learning Icelandic?

Because I moved here last year with my family. They decided to stay here. You know, it’s a great place to live. I have met many Vietnamese people who live here ten years or more, get married, have children in Iceland, and still cannot speak it. I just want to integrate into the community better. I see Icelanders speak English well but they are always pleased to see a foreigner putting time and energy into learning it. So even if I’m not good at it, I’m still trying.

Poet Jónas Hallgrímsson is a national hero in Iceland because of his contribution to the formation of the Icelandic language. Can you name a poet from your home country who is similarly regarded as a national hero through a contribution to the country’s language/literature/poetry?

Ho Chi Minh, the great leader of Viet Nam

What is similar between Iceland and your home country? What is the biggest difference?

Oh, I think nothing is similar. Many things are different; the biggest one may be the weather and the population. Viet Nam is populous and the weather is hot all year round.

What is your favourite place in Reykjavík and why?

I like a cafe which called Joe & the Juice, Just because I like juice. It’s fresh, tastes very good, is not very expensive for me, and the important thing is it’s close to my apartment.

Is learning Icelandic making your life different? In what way?

I haven’t seen anything different yet but I think it will help my life here be easier in the future.

Are you happy?

Yes. Now I am.


Show Me More!