45 different ways to say the word “green,” but if you want a beer just say “I want beer.”
As one Icelandic language teacher told her foreign students: “F#%& the grammar! You’ll never get it right, so let’s just talk.” Hmm, encouraging. But when you consider that there are 45 different ways just to say the word “green,” and then you have to think about cases, genders, and conjugation (whatever that is), you realize that she’s on to something.
Learning Icelandic is like getting a tattoo on your arse: it’s time consuming, painful, and you rarely get a chance to show it off. It’s an old language, not that different from Old Norse, and Icelanders don’t expect visitors to master much of it on their romantic mini-breaks. But speaking just a little will impress their socks off. Just don’t expect anybody to buy you a drink for it.
Luckily, the most useful Icelandic word also happens to be the easiest to pronounce. Say what you see.
I want beer
Ég vil bjór “Yeg vill byor”
Say bjór the same way you’ve been incorrectly saying Björk all this time, just drop the K.
Um, there isn’t a word for please.
If you want a beer, just say “I want beer”. Then just say takk a lot to make up for your appallingly bad manners.
Where is the train station?
There isn’t a train station either, forget about it.
Where is Björk?
Hvar er Björk? “Kvarr er B-yeurk?”
Okay, that cute letter with the little dots over it? It’s not pronounced “o.” Impress all your friends by saying her name the Icelandic way — you won’t be annoying at all.
You’re standing on my foot
Þú stendur á fæti mínum “Thoo stender ow feitee meenum”
Handy in nightclubs.
How much does this cost?
Forget it, you don’t want to know.
One hot dog with everything.
Eina með öllu “Ayna meth utloo”
Tough to pronounce, but well worth it, trust us.
Where is _____?
Hvar er _____? “Kvath er _____?”
Insert location of your choosing. We suggest “your place.”