Don’t Take it Personal: Icelandic (Íslenska)

[This is the fourth in a series of posts called “Don’t Take it Personal.” I will be writing letters to languages that have not been selected in this project, giving reasons for why I decided to “move on.” These will appear between regular posts, adding a more “comedic” spin to the blog.]

7/13/2009:

Oh, Icelandic. I hope you can forgive me, for I think I may have made a grave mistake.

When we first met, I dismissed you as an unpronounceable language with ever-expanding words, like your cousin, German. I had only known of you through Sigur Rós, an Icelandic band who I had come to love, but could never understand. It was foolish of me to not look more closely.

This brief encounter merely scratched the surface. Your vitality is impressive and almost incomparable to the other Indo-European languages, as you have remained relatively unchanged from the 1300s. Your alphabet, contrary to popular belief, is quite similar to English’s, with the exception of letters such as ð, þ and æ which are quite simple for an American like me to pronounce; you also have very few dialects. What also attracts me is your Old Norse tradition, perhaps more prominent than in the other Scandinavian languages, which allow your speakers to read texts that are more than centuries old.

I remember listening to Ágætis byrjun, hearing you through the sounds of Jónsi Birgisson’s chilling, yet sweeping voice. I remember how it soothed my spirit, flooding me with wonder. The reason for why we could not connect remains unclear.

Granted, there are some things about you that concern me. You tend to be a bit more inflectional, as you have several more noun cases than English, along with grammatical gender. I also could not find an online translator in Icelandic. And then there is the issue of practicality, because not very many people speak Icelandic (and many Icelanders speak English rather well). But your similarity to (and my early love of) Norwegian makes me wonder whether things could work out after all.

Upon further reflection, I realize that I may have been hasty in my inferences. Please give me time to think about things. I ask for your forgiveness for judging you; I may have missed out on an open, and very brilliant, book.

… Þú ættir að vita betur.

With love,
Keith

3 thoughts on “Don’t Take it Personal: Icelandic (Íslenska)

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