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Language-learning for tourism

Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2019 7:09 pm
by zjones
I'm thinking about taking a trip to Iceland this year. If I do, I would like to put some time into Icelandic (maybe a month or two), but I don't necessarily want to study this language long-term -- I just want to be a tourist who knows how to say a few dozen phrases, understands basic vocabulary and is familiar with the pronunciation. And in case I find myself in a weird situation, I want to be able to ask for directions or help.

With French and Greek, I've focused on having a strong basis in grammar so I can form long sentences. I've used Assimil and grammar books, and I'm slow to start speaking. What changes can I make to make the learning-process more appropriate for tourism, apart from just buying phrasebooks with audio? Is there anything else I should know, any particular area of the language I should focus on? I'm looking for general advice that could be used by any learner with any language, but specific recommendations for Icelandic are welcome too. :D

Re: Language-learning for tourism

Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2019 9:35 pm
by zenmonkey
Check out the Icelandic Resource page: ... 51&p=93357

I can really recommend Alaric Hall's online course for beginners ... landic.php
Just download those and go through them quickly. Don't worry about memorising too much, it is really to get a flavour of the language.

Then grab a travel / conversation guide (I have Assimil's) these are light, inexpensive and cover most phrases a tourist needs. Some now come with audio.

I also have Einarsdottir's Learning Icelandic which is pretty short - 15 lessons - it's a solid intro to the basics (audio is online). Each lesson introduces some important grammatical features.

If you want to memorise some "islands" or standard phrases you might use as a tourist, you can use Anki or another SRS to quickly learn a few dozen standard phrases.

Re: Language-learning for tourism

Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2019 10:07 pm
by MrsStarez
Ask Neurotip!

Re: Language-learning for tourism

Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2019 10:43 pm
by iguanamon
Greetings, please, thank you, numbers, you're welcome, directions, introductions, pleased to meet you, food names, drink names are all useful and polite. They go a long way toward making a trip a little more pleasant and softens being a tourist. It shows respect for the local culture and language. They have to learn English, or so they believe, you don't have to learn any Icelandic, but learning even a little is a sign of respect for which I commend you.

Re: Language-learning for tourism

Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2019 2:32 am
by Axon
I've never been to Iceland but I love learning languages for tourism. I traveled to The Netherlands, Denmark, Latvia, and Lithuania with little knowledge of the local languages, and I imagine English levels there are fairly similar to those in Iceland (= very high). If having a couple of interactions only in Icelandic is your goal, then I would focus on good pronunciation of food words and understanding numbers. That should equip you to have a brief but authentically monolingual interaction at, say, a bakery.

I would say the "basic language tourist pack" includes at a minimum greetings, thank you, prices, and an ability to read and pronounce words you see around you. Perhaps "Sorry, I don't speak Icelandic" if a stranger happens to address you (this happened to me in Denmark). Directions and saying where things are (next to, behind, in front of) is a nice step up.

If you're a little bit more ambitious, you could try practicing a couple of islands about yourself, including why you came to Iceland and why you're learning Icelandic. That question ("why are you learning our language") and perhaps "how are you learning our language" is extremely common for tourists with a little language ability.

Above all, I'd spend more than a month just listening and reading occasionally in Icelandic so that when you get there it doesn't seem incredibly foreign. The longer you have for the connections to build in your mind, the more comfortable you'll feel interacting with the language.

Re: Language-learning for tourism

Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2019 2:59 am
by Morgana
Pimsleur’s got a level I Icelandic. It’s going to teach you “I’d like to get...” “I don’t speak Icelandic” “Excuse me, where is...” “I don’t know” etc. It’ll teach you some basic food/drink terms. You’ll feel really good about using everything by the end of it, because you’ll have spent the whole 30 days having to recall and use it all. Of course, Pimsleur is expensive. Check your local library.

I don’t think Alaric Hall’s course will do the same job, he focuses more on teaching the grammar with words that aren’t too scary to decline, and I don’t recall learning many common phrases during the first 2/3rds of it, but it was over the summer when I did it so perhaps I don’t remember anymore. The students are constantly making mistakes and it will get on your nerves. Also, there are no native Icelandic speakers in the course, which isn’t terrible but if you want to focus on pronunciation you should look elsewhere.

Your best option: check if your local library offers Mango Languages. They have an Icelandic course. It will do a great job of teaching you some basics and really hammer in good pronunciation, and best of all it’s free through your library. There’s an app version and a desktop version. It is quite well suited for your purposes. I think there is even a log on here of someone who used it intending for travel to Iceland, and got good feedback from natives.

Don’t get bogged down in the finer details of Icelandic during this learning, because you will drown! Remember your purpose: learning some to better enjoy your trip.

Re: Language-learning for tourism

Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2019 3:59 am
by reineke
Textbooks written for workers in tourism industry would be useful.

Re: Language-learning for tourism

Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2019 5:12 am
by lavengro
zjones wrote:I'm thinking about taking a trip to Iceland this year. ....

I had the great fortune of visiting Iceland for a ten day vacation a few years ago. Fascinating country and super nice people. I poked around a little with learning Icelandic (íslenska) before the trip, and it was my impression was that Icelanders were surprised and appreciative when tourists were able to correctly pronounce place names, but they seemed pretty used to and tolerant of tourists just getting the pronunciation wrong. There is a very high level of English language ability as far we could tell throughout the country. The only challenge we had in communicating in English while in Iceland was on one occasion when we unexpectedly needed a particular product from a pharmacy.

A non-language recommendation in light of your comment that you are thinking of taking a trip this year: if you are contemplating visiting in summer, book accommodation early if possible, unless availability has improved since 2015 (I believe supply has improved since then, but I also believe demand has also increased). We booked accommodations in mid-March for a July vacation and by that time although we were able to get accommodations, occasionally those were down the list from what we would otherwise have chosen particularly in Vík and Akureyri, and we missed out on accommodations at the Mývatn area.

Re: Language-learning for tourism

Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2019 4:26 am
by eido
The University of Iceland has their Bjargi course, but I believe like all the other online courses offered on the site, it's entirely in Icelandic. But it covers basic stuff you'll need to know.

And I haven't used it personally, but I believe "Viltu laera Islensku?" (excuse the lack of special characters) is focused on helping newbies. The episodes are on YouTube.