From Iceland — As Foreign Population Grows, So Does Demand For Icelandic Classes

As Foreign Population Grows, So Does Demand For Icelandic Classes

Published November 11, 2022

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Jessica Peng

Foreign nationals in Icelandic have grown by 160% since 2010, RÚV reports, and now comprise some 15% of the total population. Alongside this, the demand for Icelandic classes also grows, but the supply side of the issue cannot keep up.

Gígja Svavarsdóttir, the director of The Tin Can Factory, a learning centre which teaches Icelandic, told reporters that they lack the funding to keep up with the number of people seeking Icelandic classes.

“I get paid for 180 students this year,” she said. “But we’re looking at receiving about 1,800 students. This is naturally unbearable. It is very difficult to run a school in these conditions.”

Agnieszka Sokolowska points out that while there are a number of options for learning Icelandic, most of them are out of reach for foreigners. This is due to the great number of foreigners working low paying jobs with long hours; it is all but impossible to attend Icelandic language classes while working a full time job and trying to raise a family.

Despite all the emphasis placed on the importance of learning Icelandic, Iceland sets itself apart from other Nordic countries in that it does not offer free language courses for new arrivals to the country. Ólafur Guðsteinn Kristjánsson, who teaches Icelandic in the Westfjords, says that Icelanders can help foreigners learn the language in small ways. For example, when a foreigner speaks in Icelandic, it is always advisable to respond in Icelandic instead of English.

“Try to help, maybe offer corrections here and there,” he adds. “But not with a finger in the air because the Icelandic the person is speaking is so bad, but first and foremost to offer guidance.”

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