Study Icelandic / Libraries
Icelandic is the national language in Iceland. It is closely related to the other Nordic languages. The Nordic languages are made of two categories: North Germanic and Finno-Ugric. The North Germanic category of languages includes Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Icelandic. The Finno-Ugric category includes only Finnish. Icelandic is the only one that closely resembles old Norse which was spoken by the Vikings.
Icelandic is a living language and Icelanders go to great lengths to preserve their language. Unlike their neighbors, Icelanders will not take up the English words for new things that come along like a computer or a helicopter. What they will do instead is look into the meaning, or purpose of this new item and see if they can’t find a good old Icelandic word describing it in some ways quite a conservative language not having changed much since Iceland’s settlement.
The key to integrating into the labour market and society in general is to learn Icelandic. The cost for Icelandic courses can be reimbursed through union benefits if you are working. The Directorate of Labour provides courses for foreign nationals receiving unemployment benefits. Prices for courses are accessible on websites for the courses themselves.
Some of the current options people have to study Icelandic are listed below. (Note this list is subject to change and availability)
Lifelong learning centres
Lifelong learning centres are located all around the island and offer various courses. All of the centres offer courses in Icelandic. Kvasir is an association of lifelong learning centres. Click the map below to find out where the centres are and how to contact them.
Courses, language schools and online studying
The school was established in 2020. It operates online only and all the material and approach to student care and communication is created with the online space as learning environment in mind.
The University of Iceland offers more intensive courses for those who want to master the Icelandic language by offering a full BA programme in Icelandic as a second language, and a shorter practical Icelandic for International Students course.
The University of Akureyri
The University of Akureyri offers a 6ECTS course every semester in Icelandic for its international degree seeking students and exchange students. The focus is on giving students a comprehensive insight into the Icelandic language, especially written and spoken Icelandic.
University of Iceland – The Árni Mangússon Institue
The Árni Magnússon Institute organises an international summer course in modern Icelandic and Icelandic culture in July every year. Open to all but it primarily directed towards university students of languages and literature.
University of Iceland and University of Minnesota
This joint course is offered to students in North America. It consists of three weeks taught at UoM and three weeks tuition at the University of Iceland. It is also run by the Árni Magnússon Institute.
University of Iceland and Nordkurs
This summer school ordinarily runs in June and is open to Nordic students. It is a 4 week course focusing on Icelandic language and culture, also run by the Árni Magnússon Institute.
This course is for young people of Icelandic descent living in North America. Students will learn Icelandic language, and about Iceland’s history and culture as well as connecting and strengthening ties with relatives in Iceland.
The University Centre of the Westfjords
The University Center of the Westjfords hold a number of summer schools in Ísafjörður and Núpur, of varying lengths and intensities.
- Beginners A1-A2 is a three week course designed to meet the needs of students who want to learn Icelandic and experience life in a small Icelandic town.
- Crash Course A1 is a one week course in Ísafjörður held three times a year, in winter, spring and summer. It is designed for students who want a short, intense instruction in Icelandic language before going on to study In Iceland.
- Intermediate A2-B1 is a two week course is designed for students who already have a basic knowledge of Icelandic and wish to improve it.
- Advanced B2 – are two one week courses which emphasis special advanced Icelandic skills which students can combine and take both courses if they wish, or just choose one. These courses are designed for prior learners of Icelandic.
Libraries & archives
Libraries are an affordable and sustainable method of accessing both Icelandic and in many cases one’s own mother language as many libraries in Iceland also have books in many foreign languages.
Everyone has access to books and materials from public library collections with a library card. Libraries are run by the municipalities and there are also often additional services and programs for communities that are carried out in libraries. For example, reading circles or book clubs, assistance with homework for students, access to computers and printers. Municipalites have websites for their local libraries and there you can find information regarding events, locations, opening hours and rules for how to acquire a library card, fees and lending rules for materials.
Individuals who are blind or visually impaired and cannot use printed materials can try out audio books and Braille materials at the Library for the Blind.
Most primary and secondary schools and universities have their own library, which is intended to be used by staff and students.
The National Library/University Library is a research library, the national library and the library for the University of Iceland. The library is open to anyone aged 18 and older, as well as to children accompanied by an adult. Many institutions and companies have a dedicated library for their employees.
The National Archives and the district archive offices around the country store documents pertaining to the rights of the state, the municipalities and the public. Anyone who requests it can be granted access to the archives. Exceptions include materials that pertain to the public interest or the protection of personal and private information.
Here below you can find web sites of libraries and extensive archives:
Mother language support and for multilingual families
The number of students with a mother tongue other than Icelandic has increased significantly in the Icelandic school system in recent years. Children of some Icelandic parents have mostly grown up abroad and need special support when comes to Icelandic. Icelandic schools are always developing new methods for teaching Icelandic both as a mother tongue and as a second language.
At all levels of education in pre-schools, primary schools, secondary schools, and universities it is possible to find support and/ study programs designed to work with children with a mother tongue other than Icelandic. To find information about what programs are available we suggest you contact school authorities at the school you or your children will attend or the department of education in the municipality you reside in.
Móðurmál is volunteer organization for multilingual learners who have offered instruction in over twenty languages (other than Icelandic) for multilingual children since 1994. Volunteer teachers and parents offer courses language and cultural instruction outside of traditional school hours. Languages offered and locations vary from year to year. Here is a link to the Móðurmál website for more information.
Tungumálatorg is also a good source of information regarding current programs and reference for multilingual families. The website is in Icelandic, but you can find information in various languages and for language associations and programs under the heading Tungumálin here.