Day 4/100 of my 100 days of blogging self set challenge. Today’s update is fresh. I recently decided to learn a bit of Icelandic. I’ve been learning Swedish for a little over 2 years on and off with Duolingo, but as I’m heading off in a few weeks on my seventh trip to Iceland it feels like this is the language I should be working on. I’ve always been interested in languages and that piqued even more after reading Lingo – A Language Spotter’s Guide To Europe, which is an enthralling book about where different languages originated, who borrowed from whom etc. I’d noticed several similarities between Swedish – Icelandic so this has definitely pulled me in a bit more – now I’ve gotten over the fear of pronunciation. Because that’s half the battle – learning the new sounds that your mother tongue doesn’t naturally make, it actually just reminds me of how I felt learning French in school the first time – all those rolling of Rrrrr’s and trying to remember what the different accents did to vowels – it’s really just that on a larger scale (please don’t tell me otherwise! I need to believe it).
So what am I using for language learning? Well Duolingo doesn’t have Icelandic (yet!), so that stays just for the Swedish. Memrise was one frequently mentioned on Facebook (facebook groups are good for something – plenty of language learners very ready and willing to swap tips and offer advice). I like Memrise in some respects, but it can be quite confusing in how they’ve structured it – for example you go from learning basics such as hello, good day, how are you? what are you called? to Are you attending the polyglot conference? I mean this maybe a bit of fun on their part.. but totally unnecessary I feel. And the clue is in the name, it does feel like you are just memorising phrases rather than learning in a usefully structured way – however it’s good for learning how words are pronounced but another downside is the ‘help me learn this’ sometimes it’s just a phonetically written version of the phrase, sometimes it’s some weird sentence that sounds similar but is clear nonsense. In the first 2-3 weeks, I kept with the free version, but it always tries to convince you to upgrade after your time limited session, eventually it will offer you a year’s subscription for not much more than a standard month, so I gave in given that it worked about about £2.50 a month.
Another app that is popular is Drops – basically a very beautifully designed app where words or phrases are dropped in from the top of the screen, in pictorial format – the voices for these are identical to the voices in the words by the instagram account Every Single Word In Icelandic (who also created the book – Iceland in Icons) – so I’m not sure if there’s a connection there or a generic voice/word bank that can be used. Drops is useful in that you can select what section to choose, ie basic phrases, numbers, foods – however my only issue is that some of the icons are a little obscure and I can’t remember what they mean – so whilst I can match it to the correct word or phrase, I don’t actually know what it means. Drops gives you 5 minute bite-size sessions, logging in everyday gives you bonus time or you can go pro (also offers discounts like Memrise).
I’ve also picked up a traditional phrase book (proper paper format) by Lonely Planet – part of their ‘Fast Talk’ series, this was a bargain coming in at under £3 – for almost 90 pocket sized pages. It includes what you’d expect – chatting, reading menus, transport and accommodation but also practicalities such as parts of the body and other healthcare related phrases you might need one day!
Finally there is a slightly more traditional course Icelandic Online run by the University of Iceland which I’ve just signed up to online and completed the first part of the ‘survival Icelandic’ aka level 0 (from a range of 0 – 5, where 5 is reading Icelandic literature).