Icelandic Language Blog

Icelandic Immersion Day Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

Everyone says the best way to learn a language is through immersion. Whether or not this is true for your learning style it can at the least be a good test of your skills – but how can you be immersed when you’re nowhere near Iceland, Icelanders, or even other learners?

Apart from using lots of words similar to English ones or even making some up when you’re stuck (which can be funny – see if you can remember enough pronunciation rules to write an entire English note in that sort of “Icelandic”), in general a good idea is to just mentally practice Icelandic. Even if you’re talking in English to someone else or thinking to yourself, imagine how you would have said that same thing in Icelandic.

If you know enough Icelandic so that this isn’t senseless and/or it doesn’t bore you, watch a movie that has both Icelandic audio and subtitles turned on. This way even if you can’t understand the written dialogue you might catch it in the spoken, or vice versa (subtitles hardly ever directly match the same lines spoken). I’ve been doing this and personally I’ve found that there’s only about five to ten sentences per movie I can only get the gist of, while with everything else between either the spoken or written I can understand it perfectly. Some movies however might be more confusing, depending on how clearly they talk. For example, I tried to watch one cartoon and while I could understand the subtitles perfectly I couldn’t understand anything of the dubbing – but with another cartoon I understood both just fine. The subject also matters, it’ll be tougher if it’s a military movie but you don’t know any related vocabulary, but a surprising amount of things can be picked up just by context.

If I can’t tell the specific meaning of a word I pause the movie and look it up. I also have places online and in notebooks where I list all the Icelandic words I don’t know as I find them, which can give you a bit of a confidence boost if you look back on older ones and realize you know them all.

Where do you find movies that have both Icelandic dubs and subs? Possibly on some places I’ve mentioned in previous posts and on Nordic versions of DVDs. Your best bet for finding a movie seems to be children’s shows, which they often subtitle and dub separately then release a DVD containing both. For example, the recent “Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe” movie, some Pokemon movies, and many Disney movies have both an Icelandic dub and Icelandic subtitles. Adult movies tend to only have subtitles. I’ve found that if I watch an Icelandic movie with English subtitles I mostly pay attention to the English while ignoring the Icelandic.

If you want some more difficult practice take a clip of an Icelandic show or audio recording and transcribe it, then translate it. The major news sites all have archived videos in various subjects that you can watch online. Of course you can also spend your immersion day without writing down anything you don’t know, or doing any other kind of extra practice.

You can easily find recipes in Icelandic online (if you have one you want translated into English I’m sure one of us on the blog can do it for you!) and then spend the day eating the food you make and listening to Icelandic radio online. You can find a collection of Icelandic podcasts here. Now there are even lots of Ebooks and audiobooks you may be able to buy for reading practice, too. Many blogs for Icelandic music are available even in English. A common exercise seems to be writing your grocery list in Icelandic, and if you have a pet you can use the command form to give it silly commands.

If you can’t read an Icelandic book without help, a good thing is to have an English edition of the same book side-by-side. It may make things a lot clearer even if you still don’t look up the words you don’t know, because sometimes you just need more context or a little sentence-structure memory jog. Not only do they translate a lot of new and popular books into Icelandic, but older books that you may already own or books that are out of copyright in English have also sometimes been translated. Eymundsson and Edda sell books online, but if you can’t buy them without being in Iceland let me know so I can find other places that do sell to people abroad.

Another good idea, not necessarily only for the immersion day, is to try and teach someone Icelandic. Even if they’re not very interested or if you’re teaching a non-existent person (maybe only writing in your secret blog that no one reads) it can really help you to sort out and remember the rules in your own head. The last little thing I can think of is just browsing only Icelandic websites for the day. If you have no idea where to find any you can easily go to Icelandic Wikipedia and click on random source links or type random Icelandic words into Google.

What about if you really are just a beginner? This is a bit more tricky because if you do too many things with Icelandic, it may discourage you from learning because you’re swamped with the amount of Icelandic that you don’t know. In that case I would say to watch the movies with English subtitles, listen to Icelandic music, and basically find ways to use all the Icelandic words you know just to help keep yourself enjoying the language. If you only know greetings, draw a little comic where they greet each other in Icelandic. If you know days of the week and month names, make yourself a calendar or planner. Browse Icelandic sites that may have item names and little else (stores seem to be more like this) so you can pick up on vocabulary. Some people like to label things around the house to learn, so browsing shopping sites might help with vocabulary-gathering for that too. If you’re like I am in Swedish and only know random words that you can’t do much with, point and call your flatmate a cheese grater in Icelandic and then call the stove a thief.

The University of Iceland gives out free planners every year, this is this year’s.

There are some mini-games you can use to learn Icelandic words here. Transparent language also used to have some if I remember correctly, but they seem to be gone now as the link I had saved doesn’t work.

Lastly, look at images of Iceland to inspire you!

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About the Author: sequoia

I try to write about two-thirds of the blog topics on cultural aspects and one-third on the language, because there's much more out there already on the language compared to daily life information. I try to stay away from touristy things because there's more of that out there than anything else on Iceland, and I feel like talking about that stuff gives you the wrong impression of Iceland.