Iceland is a wonderful country to visit, but many tourists are baffled by the long Icelandic place names. In fact, Icelandic has a very simple phonetic pronunciation system, so you can learn to pronounce the language very quickly, even if you haven't a clue what you are saying. This is handy for saying the place names, if for nothing else.
Icelandic has three extra letters which do not exist in modern English, although they did more than a thousand years ago:
- þ is called 'Thorn'.
- ð is called 'Eth'. The upper case version is Ð.
- æ is called 'Aye'.
There are seven vowels, a, e, i, o, u, y and æ. Five of these can take an acute accent (´), which changes the pronunciation, and o can have an umlaut (¨) over it.
|a||as in pat (as pronounced by natives of the North of England)|
|á||ow as in howl|
|e||as in pet|
|i||as in pit|
|í||ee as in peel|
|o||as in pot|
|ó||as in pole|
|ö||uh sound as in German möbel or French meuble|
|u||as in put|
|ú||as in pool|
|ý||ee as in feet|
|æ||i as in fight|
Note that e is always pronounced, even at the end of a word.
The basic pronunciation of the letters, when not in a special combination:
|b, d, f, k, l, m, n, p, t, v, x||as in English|
|g||always hard g as in get|
|h||sounded as a separate letter, even after p.|
|j||y sound as in yellow|
|s||as in sit, not a z sound as in toys|
|þ||th as in thin|
|Âð||th as in the|
|c, q, w and z||These letters do not exist in Icelandic, but are used in imported 'international' words, such as 'pizza'.|
While most letters are pronounced individually, there are a few combinations with special pronunciations:
|sj||as sh in English|
|ng||as nk at the end of a word, as ng in the middle|
|ey||as a in pale|
|ei||as a in pale|
|au||as o in pole|
- Ísland = Eess-land - the Icelandic for Iceland
- Reykjavík = Rake-ya-veek - the capital
- Snæfell = Snigh-fetl - Snow Mountain
- Vatnajökull = Vatna-yuhktl - the big glacier that gives Iceland its name
- Geysir = Gace-ir - the original Geyser
- Þingvellir = Thing-vetlir - the site of the original Icelandic parliament
- Eyjafjallajökull = Ay-ya-fyatla-yuhktl - that pesky volcano