The Icelandic language
The official language of Iceland, Icelandic, is part of the Indo-European language family and is closely related to Faroese and Norwegian.
Icelandic is a North Germanic language primarily spoken in Iceland. It’s renowned for its historical continuity, remaining relatively unchanged since medieval times. While it’s not a widely spoken language globally, it is rich in history, literature, and cultural significance.
Brief History and Origins:
- Icelandic is descended from Old Norse, the language of the Vikings.
- It was brought to Iceland in the 9th and 10th centuries by Norse settlers.
- While other North Germanic languages (like Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish) underwent significant changes over the centuries, Icelandic has preserved many of the features of Old Norse, making medieval Icelandic sagas comprehensible to modern Icelandic speakers.
Number of Speakers:
- As of the last count, there are approximately 350,000 native Icelandic speakers.
- While this number may seem small, it represents the vast majority of Iceland’s population.
Where It Is an Official Language:
- Icelandic is the official language of Iceland.
- It is also one of the official languages of the Nordic Council, a regional body for inter-parliamentary cooperation among the Nordic countries.
Example of Text:
“Þetta er dæmi um íslenskan texta.”
(Translation: “This is an example of Icelandic text.”)
Where and How It Is Used:
- In Iceland: Naturally, Icelandic is the dominant language in all spheres of life in Iceland – from education and government to media and everyday conversation.
- Literature: Iceland has a rich literary history, from the sagas of the medieval period to modern novels, poetry, and other forms of written expression.
- Music: Many Icelandic musicians and bands sing in Icelandic, even those who have gained international fame, like Björk and Sigur Rós.
- Education: Icelandic is taught as a first language in schools, but students also learn English and other languages as secondary languages.
English Words in Icelandic:
- With the advent of technology and globalisation, Icelandic has borrowed some words from English. Often these borrowed words are adapted to Icelandic phonetics and grammar: “Tölvupóstur” (literally “computer post”) for “email”. “Bíti” from “byte”.
- However, the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies frequently invents new Icelandic terms for modern concepts to limit foreign borrowings.
Icelandic Words in English:
Though it’s not common for Icelandic words to be absorbed into English, there are a few exceptions:
- “Geysir” – The English word “geyser” comes from “Geysir”, the name of a particular geyser in Iceland. It’s derived from the Icelandic verb “geysa”, meaning “to gush”.
- “Saga” – While the English meaning refers broadly to any long story, it means a specific kind of epic historical tale in Icelandic and Old Norse.
While spoken by a small population, the Icelandic language has a rich history and continues to be a vital part of Icelandic identity and culture. Its deep roots in Old Norse give it a unique position among European languages, offering a window into the world of the Vikings and the early history of Scandinavia.
Some linguists believe Icelandic is a relatively insular language, as other languages have not heavily influenced it. Because of this, it is still relatively easy for Icelandic speakers to read and understand Icelandic texts from hundreds of years ago. Unlike the majority of other languages, Icelandic does not usually incorporate words from other languages and is seen by some as a dying language outside of Iceland. Although many Icelandic residents also speak additional languages such as English, Dutch or Norwegian, translating content into a speaker’s mother tongue should not be underestimated.
Here at Brightlines, we’ve helped brands like Microsoft, De Beers, and GE Healthcare do just that.
Our translation services - FAQ
Do you use native translators?
Yes, always. All our translators are native speakers and most are still resident in their native country. We pride ourselves on ensuring that all Brightlines’ translators are native. We do not accept applications from non-native candidates or allow them to register on our online recruitment database. All our translators are rigorously tested.
How long will the translations take?
The turnaround for the translation will depend on the word count. As a rough guide, assume that the translators can comfortably process about 2500 words of non-specialised text per day. Proofreading can effectively be completed on a basis of 4000-6000 words a day. Our minimum turnaround time is usually about three days, although it is possible to shorten this if you are in a rush for the final files and we will always be happy to discuss this with you.
What is the variation in your translators’ experience and qualifications? Are they native speakers? Will the cost increase if we use a more experienced translator?
All our translators have to go through a series of tests to make sure they are as good as they say they are, and only if they pass are they allowed to work for Brightlines. There is quite a range of experience and qualifications, but all translators have a minimum of five years’ experience. All translators translate into their mother-tongue without exception and are generally based in-country so they are up-to-date with the local language. We match translators with projects/clients depending on the subject matter, and most of our translators have industry experience in their speciality – there is no better experience than being immersed professionally in the industry they specialise in. Our costs are based on translator experience, speciality (i.e. medical, creative, scientific) and the language choice.
Which languages can you translate into?
We have an extensive database with hundreds of trusted and tested translators covering all commercial languages. If you cannot see the language or dialect you need please ask.
I don’t know the word count; can you base the quote on the number of pages?
Our pricing structure is based on a rate-per-word, but we can estimate from a page count. If we can’t see the source document then we would usually estimate between 300 – 500 words a page depending on the density of the text and the presence of photos and images.
Does the translation need to be proofread?
Brightlines is an ISO 9001:2015 certified company. This means that quality is safeguarded. We adhere to the “four-eyes principle” and translations are always checked by a second professional proofreader (who is not the translator). If the translation is for internal use and reference purposes only (i.e. not to be published, distributed or used in a court of law), or you simply don’t wish to have proofreading, we can remove the proofreading stage.