From Iceland — Increased Access To Icelandic Classes In Everyone's Best Interest

Increased Access To Icelandic Classes In Everyone’s Best Interest

Published March 19, 2024

Linguist and Háskóli professor Eiríkur Rögnvaldsson told Rás 2’s morning radio program that Icelanders need to shift their mindset about immigrants speaking English in shops and other customer-facing businesses.

He said that, while it’s normal for people to be annoyed that Icelandic is not spoken in shops and restaurants, immigrants need to be given more opportunity to learn the language. He noted that those working long hours for low wages, as a large proportion of immigrants in Iceland do, likely lack the motivation to pursue language learning on top of everything else.

“One notices people’s ever-increasing irritation at not being able to receive service in Icelandic in shops and restaurants,” Eiríkur told the radio program. “I think that is very understandable. Icelandic is an official language in the country and it is natural that we expect to be able to use it. Then we need to create some opportunities for these people to learn.”

A solution Eiríkur highlighted is giving immigrants the opportunity to learn Icelandic during working hours, with the support of their employer. “Employers then got happier and more versatile staff,” he said, while pointing out that there are a lot of immigrants who are highly educated but cannot find employment in their field due to a lack of language skills.

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