I have to take my entrance exam for the Icelandic as a Second Language Program today–as I’ve told many of you, the gist is that I have to prove that I know enough Icelandic to be taught Icelandic (at the B.A. level). If I fail miserably, I’ll go into the Practical Certificate Program. I’ve been advised that although I will learn the basics of Icelandic in that course–and can later try to test into the 2nd year of the B.A. program instead of starting at the beginning again–it’s not terribly rigorous. Or, more particularly, “It’s designed for exchange students who want to learn how to order beer in bars.” Well, okay then. I do want to know how to order beer in bars, but if I’m going to make the most of our time here, I’d like something a wee bit more intense.
As preparation for this entrance exam, I’ve been using the Icelandic Online program designed by the University of Iceland which is a sort of fend-for-yourself and very idiosyncratic version of Rosetta Stone, and which occasionally presumes a lot of innate knowledge about the grammatical structure of the Icelandic language. It also contains some hilarious practice dialogs. For example, a recent one found several people introducing themselves to one another in a local hot pot. After preliminary niceties, one of the men, Xavier (pronounced Za-vi-er, instead of Ha-vi-er), looked around and remarked on how much he likes singing in the shower. “Is it okay to sing in the hot pots?” he inquired of the Icelandic woman next to him. She gave him an emphatic ‘no’ in response. “Icelanders don’t do that.” (A warning to all of you taking the lesson–no singing in the hot pots, weirdos.)
Anyway, I won’t say that I’ve learned nothing from the online program, but I will say that it really isn’t enough by itself. So I’ve added a book with audio lessons, and have also spent a fair amount of time over the last months listening to talk radio online (‘Utvarp Sa-ga!”). So I can differentiate between words when someone is speaking Icelandic (and that actually does take awhile, so don’t laugh), and have a very strange vocabulary (álfabyggð! hvalasafn! fiskeldi! hjúkrunarheimili!), but can’t always say basic things, as in the kinds of things you mention when you first introduce yourself, like where you are from. I received intel from a fellow Icelandic-as-a-Second-Language (heretofore known as ISL) grantee that on today’s test you’re supposed to write out a paragraph about yourself. Which I can probably do, if I’ve got enough time, and have prepared, although I will point out that it’s not really the kind of thing that we were made to practice or study in the Icelandic Online lessons.
But neverthless: onwards! Or, as my friend, an Icelandic translator, just introduced to me: “Áfram með smjörið!” (Onwards with the butter!”)