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Iceland Mag


Employees of the American Embassy in Reykjavík try pronouncing some Icelandic phrases: Could you do better?

  • Þetta reddast! US Ambassador Robert C. Barber tries to pronounce Iceland's unofficial national motto. Photo/Screenshot from video, see below.

Yesterday was the annual “Day of Icelandic”. Every year since 1996 the Ministry of Education and Culture has commemorated November 16 as the Day of Icelandic, using the day of Icelandic to draw attention to its ongoing campaign promote the Icelandic language and its use.

To celebrate this day the US employees of the US Embassy in Reykjavík Iceland, including the Ambassador Robert C. Barber, tried their Icelandic skills, pronouncing several phrases, sayings and proverbs chosen by the Embassy’s Facebook friends. Included in the mix were some particularly tricky Icelandic phrases, known as “tungubrjótar” in Icelandic, which translates as “tongue-breakers”.

Read more: Icelandic rated among the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers

The results were everything from quite impressive to pretty hilarious!



Dagur íslenskrar tungu er í dag og bandarískrir starfsmenn sendiráðsins voru ólmir í að fá að spreyta sig á íslenskunni....

Posted by US Embassy Reykjavik Iceland on Monday, November 16, 2015


“Þetta reddast!”
Among the phrases were some of the best sayings in Icelandic:

“Köld eru kvenna ráð”: A saying from the Saga of Burnt Njáll which translates as “Cold is the advice/plotting of women”.

“Á misjöfnu þrífast börnin best”: A saying which could be translated to something like “Children are best raised by experiencing different things”.

“Sá vægir sem vitið hefur meira”: ”He who has more sense/wisdom will yield”

“Ég geri sko ekki neitt fyrir neinn sem gerir ekki neitt fyrir neinn”: A phrase from the 1990s cult comedy Sódóma Reykjavík which has since become a popular saying. It translates as “I won’t do any favours for somebody who doesn’t do any favors for anybody”

And, of course “Þetta reddast”. Which has been described as Iceland’s motto, meaning “It’ll work itself out in the end!”

Read more: Iceland’s crisis management In two words: "Þetta reddast"

The birthday of one of the giants of the Icelandic language
November 16 was chosen as it is the birthday of the poet Jónas Hallgrímsson, born in 1807, one of the founding fathers of romanticism in Iceland and the national awakening of the 19th century.

Jónas also translated numerous foreign works into Icelandic, and wrote on science for a popular audience. In the process Jónas coined numerous new Icelandic words from older root words for new and foreign concepts. This tradition of creating new Icelandic concepts rather than simply adopting foreign loan words for new concepts is one of the strengths of Icelandic, allowing it to adapt to a changing world.

Read more: Courses in modern Icelandic offered at UC Berkeley this fall

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