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Iceland Mag

Culture

5 Essential Icelandic phrases that foreigners must learn

By Matt Eliason

  • Have a Bjór! Fortunately for tourists, one of the few Icelandic words that is easy to pronounce for English speakers is beer, or bjór.

Icelandic is one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to pick up. Therefore, a foreigner coming to stay in Iceland is not going to have the ability to learn the entire language, unless you plan on staying for at least 2-3 years. Therefore, I thought it would be important to list out 5 essential phrases that are worth learning if you plan on spending time in this Nordic country.

  1. Hjálp ég er villtur – Help, I am lost!

With long, narrow, windy streets gracing the capital city of Reykjavik, Iceland, chances are you will find yourself somewhere unfamiliar during your stay in the country’s largest city. Therefore, there is no better way to inform the locals that you are a clueless foreigner than by asking for help. The word “hjálp” sort of resembles its English equivalent while the word 'villtur” resembles the word 'wilder'. So using your forces of comparison, most foreigners can piece together the desperate phrase - Help, I am lost!

  1. Góðan dag – Good day

The standard greeting method when acknowledging a stranger around town is “goðan dag” which translates to “good day.” If you see an Icelander walking down the street, you can try out your accent by exclaiming the phrase and seeing if you get a comparable “goðan dag” back in your direction.

  1. Hvað segir þú? – What’s up?

I feel bad even putting this one down because the chances of an American pronouncing this phrase correctly is very slim. However, this is the standard Icelandic greeting that loosely translates to “what’s up.” Saying this phrase correctly will definitely earn you some cred from the locals, but make sure you are pronouncing the syllables correctly or you will get blank stares from Icelander’s trying to understand your English gibberish.

Read more: 10 Useless Icelandic phrases you should not bother to learn

  1. Einn bjór, takk – One beer, thanks

Sit down at one of Reykjavík’s numerous bars for a refreshing beer and surprise your bartender with a couple words in their native tongue. The Icelandic word for beer is “bjór” making the Icelandic translation similar enough to the English version, so give it a try when ordering your first drink. “Takk” is the short translation for saying “thank you,” which in complete for is Takk Fyrir.

  1. Hvar er klósettið? – Where is the bathroom?

I know it is standard for all travelers to figure out the phrase for bathroom visits. However, it is necessary to figure out this essential phrase, and fortunately for English speakers, the phrase for bathroom is relatively simply – klósett. The pronunciation is similar to term closet in English; therefore, you shouldn’t have trouble tracking down the right location when nature comes calling.

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