Conversations I’m Not (Yet) Equipped to Have in Icelandic

Me: Ég skil meira og meira íslensku en er erfiður fyrir mig að tala.

(Translation of my probably very incorrect sentence: I understand more and more Icelandic, but it is hard for me to talk.)

Friendly Icelander: Já? [Icelandic, Icelandic, Icelandic]

Translation: Yeah? [Icelandic, Icelandic, Icelandic]

Me: Afsakið–ég skil ekki.

Translation: Excuse me/sorry–I don’t understand.

FI: Are you an earth-bound person? (Meaning: grounded.)

Me: Um, well–yes, I am.

FI: Hardworking?

Me: Yes.

FI: [Icelandic, Icelandic, Icelandic]

Me: Ha?

Translation: What?

FI: Not a dreamer?

Me: Nei, ekki meira.

Translation (of more bad Icelandic): No, not much (attempted meaning: Not really.)

FI: [Icelandic, Icelandic, Icelandic]

Me: …uh.

FI: Á íslensku.

Translation: In Icelandic.


FI: I said, “But it is important to have balance, right? Between being practical and a dreamer?”

Me: Oh! Já! Já! Einmitt!

Translation: Oh! Yes, yes–of course.

FI: Hvers vegna?

Translation: Why?

FI: Á íslensku, takk.

Translation: In Icelandic, please.

Me: Að hafa…(Makes lots of hand motions)…balance.

Translation: To have…hand motion back and forth…balance.

FI: [Icelandic, Icelandic, Icelandic]


FI: This is not an easy conversation to have in Icelandic.

Me: Nei.

Translation: No.

FI: You need words to match your thoughts.

Me: Ég hef tíu orð.

Translation (Of bad Icelandic): I have ten words.

FI: You need more.

Me: Já.

Translation: Yep.


6 thoughts on “Conversations I’m Not (Yet) Equipped to Have in Icelandic

  1. This is ridiculous! They expect you to discuss such themes after barely a month of being exposed to Icelandic! A ‘great’ book I bought was “fyrstu 1000 ordin” in the children section of Eymundsson, it covers A LOT of every day words and obviously done in a very child friendly way with plenty of images which makes remembering them much easier than in a column form.

    • Thanks for the vocab book suggestion, Anya! I like the idea of a kid’s pictorial dictionary and will look around for this one. And this was certainly a conversation in which I was absurdly out of my depth. But on one level–although not in terms of basic comprehension–I was pleased that the person tried. And it’s useful to just have someone standing and talking *at* you in a foreign language, even if you can’t respond. Mostly, it was just amusing to me.

      Have you studied Icelandic long?

  2. Grounded/down to earth in Icelandic is raunsær, or you can even say jarðbundinn. Not really = ekki beint, ekki alveg. To hold/have balance = halda jafnvægi. I only know 10 words = Ég kann bara 10 orð.

    Well done otherwise! How’s the Icelandic coming along now?

    I’m in the third year of the BA program and speak the language pretty well, always a pleasure to help.


    • Takk fyrir hjálpina Jordan! All very useful vocab, and would have been particularly helpful at the time. This incident happened very, very early in my Icelandic studies, so I was basically only equipped at that point to say hello, thank you, goodbye, and frábært! I am further along now–not maybe up to philosophical conversations, or perhaps any conversations that don’t take place at a shop counter–and slowly (slowly!) making progress. Next week I am going to start volunteering at a retirement home, so with any luck I will get a lot more conversational and listening practice.

      I’ve only met one or two people in the 3rd year of the program–it’s great that you are finishing the full degree. What lead you to Iceland(ic)?

      Nice to ‘meet’ you!


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