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Do People Speak English in Iceland?

August 25, 2021


Although Iceland is a sparsely-populated remote island that lies just below the Arctic Circle, approximately 98% of Icelanders speak English as the nation’s lingua franca. Icelandic, on the other hand, is not only the native tongue but was named the country's official language by an Act of Parliament. Icelandic is, however, an insular language such that other languages have not had a major influence on its development. Since Icelanders are extremely proud of their Viking heritage, they have gone to great measures to preserve the language that closely resembles the Old Norse vernacular.

During the 18th century under Danish rule, the integrity of the Icelandic language was threatened but native speakers continued to push the use of Icelandic for all literary purposes. That's why, even in today’s global village, Iceland is a good example of linguistic homogeny with tons of multilingual speakers. English has been and continues to be taught as a second language in the schools, so almost every person in Iceland is fluent in English.

Since Iceland is geographically positioned very close to Eastern Scandinavia, Swedish and Danish are not officially labeled as foreign languages. However, linguistic purism is still strongly supported in an overt effort to prevent the merging of loaner words. Instead, neologisms are uniquely coined from Icelandic roots and used to describe new concepts when speaking Icelandic.

Icelanders Take Great Care to Preserve Traditions

Icelanders take great care to preserve their heritage and remnants of many traditional Norse beliefs are part of Icelandic culture today. In fact, Icelandic culture is as diverse as the country’s landscape. Until the turn of the 20th century, Iceland was a relatively poor country and largely relied on fishing and agriculture, but following World War II diversification into manufacturing, finance, and biotechnology helped Iceland to become on the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world.

Today, Iceland has a market economy with relatively low taxes and the highest trade union membership of any nation ranking it very high in economic, democratic, and social stability. The government of Iceland is a representative democracy and a parliamentary republic. The country has always had two or more parties that form a coalition government under a prime minister and cabinet. Due to its low crime rate, lack of armed forces, and socio-political stability, Iceland is considered to be the most peaceful country in the world.

Growing Opportunities in the Land of Fire and Ice

Although it is a remote island, Iceland sits at the junction of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Geologically speaking, it is a young land that is constantly being reshaped by active volcanoes, frequent earthquakes, and spouting geysers. This striking landscape is further altered by the shifting of Europe’s largest glaciers and thunderous waterfalls. These attractions draw millions of tourists to the capital city of Reykjavik to explore the Land of Fire and Ice.

With the widespread availability of geothermal power and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity, most residents have access to inexpensive hot water, heating, and power. In fact, renewable energy sources provide the majority of Iceland’s electricity and Guinness World Records ranked Iceland as the “Greenest Country” in the world with the highest Environmental Sustainability Index score of 93.5. Icelanders are known for their strong sense of community and lack of social isolation. With income inequality being among the lowest in the world, egalitarianism is highly valued in Iceland.

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Iceland is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), and Icelanders are familiar with U.S. brands, media services, and cinemas that are broadcast in English but with Icelandic subtitles. Around 95% of the population has internet access, so Iceland has a highly developed internet culture with the highest proportion of online users in the world. Social media is experiencing rapid growth and there are no limits on selling U.S. goods as long as marketing efforts are Icelandic compliant. For optimal results, contact ProLingo to discuss your specific needs.

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