3 reasons Icelandic is hard

1. Icelandic has 24 different forms of the definite article whereas English uses only “the.”
2. All the words sound alike.
3. I can’t make those sounds.

Seriously. I was out for a walk with Audrey today and my upstairs neighbor stopped me and asked me something. I asked him to repeat it, and then had to admit that I couldn’t understand. He said, “Is she yours?” Three words. Three words that I know.

I’ll never learn Icelandic.

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5 thoughts on “3 reasons Icelandic is hard”

  1. Aliette de Bodard

    24 different forms of the article? What do they use them for (the most I know is Greek where you have one masculine, one feminine, one neutral, one plural and one dual. That’s still only 5…)

  2. Mary Robinette Kowal

    They change depending on the declension of the noun. So you have: masculine, feminine and nueter. Then each of those has a plural or singluar form. Then each of those can be nominative, accusative, dative or genitive. PLUS there are two different endings for masculine and feminine.


  3. Actually, Greek works much the same way. Although English is a mixed up, messed up language, I do appreciate the simplification of the article, noun, and verb endings. And I’m sure you can pick up Icelandic, Mary. You know the drill — just hang out someplace where people talk a lot, a pizzeria or the local equivalent. (Of course, then all you really know is, say, how to order a slice of pizza — but you know it really well!)

  4. Mary Robinette Kowal

    True, and I have picked up “studio” icelandic that way. But knowing how to say “May I have a monitor here” isn’t quite so useful when trying to decide what size shoe I wear at a store.

  5. When shopping in Mexico (I really enjoyed the open-air markets — they made shopping into a competitive sport, almost a war of attrition, which is much more fun than shopping here), pointing and the words “Es mucho” carried me further than you would believe. Of course, there was the pastor’s daughter and friend who got drunk by not realizing that they were purchasing the alcoholic version of a popular drink….

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