Essential Icelandic words and phrases before you travel
In Essential Icelandic 2 and 3 you learned how to ask “Where is …” questions and possible answers.
As you travel around Iceland, you’re likely to encounter hard-to-pronounce place names. Sure, you can say them by using the sound system of your native language. (Lots of people do.)
But why not learn to pronounce these place names the Icelandic way? Being able to say names like “Þingvellir” or “Fjaðrárgljúfur ” the right way may well add to your enjoyment of exploring Iceland.
As a starter, try out the Icelandic words for “geyser, water, islands, fields”. Then you can practice the Icelandic names of a few popular places.
(The picture above shows “Seljalandsfoss”, a well-known waterfall in southern Iceland.)
Route in Southern Iceland
The places listed above are all in southern Iceland. They include two stops along the popular Golden Circle route: the national park Thingvellir (Þingvellir), a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and the spectacular “Golden Waterfall” (Gullfoss).
(Note that the English word “geyser” comes from the Icelandic hot-spring area “Geysir” in the valley of Haukadal, also on the Golden Circle route.)
Next: A day trip from Landeyjahöfn by ferry to Heimaey, the largest of the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar).
Then, continuing along Iceland’s southern shore: stops at the beautiful waterfall Seljalandsfoss; the peninsula of Dyrhólaey (literally “door hill island”), a promontory with a massive natural arch; and the stunning black-sand beach Reynisfjara.
Finally, a visit to Fjaðrárgljúfur, a massive canyon, and to Icelands most famous glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón, with its iceberg-studded blue waters.
Icelandic directional words and phrases…
In Essential Icelandic 2 we added “Where …” questions – if you’re looking for the bathroom, a pharmacy, a bus stop, the harbor, a bank or an ATM.
Asking such questions in Icelandic – especially if you have practiced your pronunciation a bit – may let your conversation partner assume that you understand Icelandic quite well.
The result may well be an answer and a stream of words that will fly right by you.
So asking the person to speak more slowly could be your first reply in such a case: “Gætirðu talað hægar?”
Especially if you’re taking self-driving tours to explore the island, it would be good to know some basic directional words and phrases in Icelandic – left, right, straight ahead – as the typical answers may well include them.
The Next 13 Icelandic Phrases
Why These Phrases?
In Essential Icelandic 1 and 2, we listed greetings and typical “where is…?” questions. Even if you have never studied Icelandic before, it will be useful to learn and practice saying greetings and questions.
In Essential Icelandic 3, there are only two sentences you may want to practice saying: “Could you speak more slowly?” and “Thanks for your help.”
The other 11 phrases and sentences will be useful to understand as you receive answers to your “where is…?” question. You still may want to record yourself saying them, so you can confirm, what you thought you understood- and – you’ll also remember them better that way.
Food, Drinks, Restaurants
Finding a recommended restaurant, Café, or bar has been made much easier with GPS equipped smart phones and mobile devices.
Once you have arrived at the place, you may have to ask for a table and the Menu, place an order and then ask for and pay the check.
Knowing a few key phrases in Icelandic, especially if you’re outside of the capital city, Reykjavik, will make all this much easier. (Look for some food related words and phrases in one of our next “Essentials”)
If you are used to the 15-20% tips, generally expected in US restaurants, you’ll be pleasantly surprised: In nearly all West-European countries, tips are included in your check. That’s also true for Iceland, and it’s not customary to add a tip.
Traveling around Iceland
As you’ll travel around Iceland you’ll encounter some names, which you’ll have a hard time pronouncing. Just try “Þingvellir” or “Fjaðrárgljúfur ” for example.
Icelandic Essential 4 will have those and the names of some other places as well as Icelandic words for “geyser, water, islands, fields”. Maybe you can then figure out how to pronounce the names of the villages and sites you are exploring.
Asking “Where is…? questions in Icelandic…
If you’ve already learned and practiced Essential Icelandic 1 you’ll be ready to tackle the next 12 essentials.
These are words and phrases that’ll help you ask “Where …” questions – if you’re looking for the bathroom, a pharmacy, a bus stop, the harbor, a bank or an ATM.
You may also want to know, if the person you’re talking with speaks German, French, Spanish, Italian, or English – one of the languages you may speak as well.
The Next 12 Phrases: “Where is…?”
Getting Around Reykjavík and Iceland
Reykjavík has an excellent bus system, if you want to explore the city and its attractions.
Ferries and overland buses take you to other parts of the island. But maybe you prefer one of the offered tours or rent a car to visit the numerous waterfalls, lakes and hot springs on the island .
Reykjavík has several bus terminals, depending on the company. In small towns all buses typically stop at the main gas station.
“Where….?” Questions answered….
If you have practiced a lot , asking “Where…?”- questions in Icelandic may let the person you are asking assume that you speak Icelandic.
The result will likely be an answer and a stream of words you’ll probably not understand.
It would therefore be good to know some basic directional words and phrases in Icelandic – left, right, straight ahead, etc. – especially, if the person who gives you directions does not speak any English.
You’ll find the next 13 phrases in Essential Icelandic 3.
Icelandic polite phrases & greetings…
Our son and his family are planning a trip to Iceland in the summer. He and his wife had been to Iceland previously for a few days and know that English is widely spoken.
Now they want to explore the island with their young children (12, 9, and 5 years) for little longer.
And this time they want to learn and practice some essential words and phrases.
Over the next few weeks we’ll add more essential Icelandic words and phrases.
(See “Learn and Practice Tips” below!)
The First 11 Icelandic Phrases
Learn and Practice Tips
- Click the black arrow to hear the Icelandic speaker.
- Click the red dot once to record yourself, click the black square to stop recording.
- When you click the black arrow again, you’ll first hear the speaker and then yourself.
- Do it several times until you sound close to the Icelandic speaker
Why learn these Phrases?
Whenever you travel to a country whose language you don’t speak, you will encounter situations when these words will be useful.
Our son and his wife know full well that they won’t be able to have a conversation in Icelandic, but that some basic phrases and greetings will go a long way to break the ice with the Icelanders they’ll meet. (no pun intended!)
After you have learned and practiced these 11 first basic words and phrases, so can say “Please”,”Thank you” and some greetings in Icelandic, it may be time to learn some typical question words. Look out for Essential Icelandic 2.