The Icelandic Language

Trying to regurgitate this beast of a language

Everywhere we go, we try to pick up some of the language. Whether it's more about the geography and grasping the names of the nearby towns, regurgitating key words and phrases, or even just the sounds the animals make (ie: in French, a cat says "miaou", in Indonesian, "meong", and in Icelandic, "mjá"). 

Our first full day in Iceland, we had plans to take a 3 1/2 hour bus up to Northern Iceland to the Vatnsnes peninsula to a town called Hvammstangavegur. As usual, I did all the necessary research to figure out which bus to take, how to find the bus we take, how many stops we're on the bus for, what the actual bus stop looks like etc. etc. (Budget traveling is a total pain...if that wasn't already apparent.)

We woke up early, got lost finding our bus stop, found our bus stop, took the city bus, got lost finding our new bus stop, found our new bus stop, and finally sat down to wait for the bus that would take us to meet our hosts in Hvammstangavegur. (Whew.) The bus pulled up exactly at 9:05am and we climbed onboard, Icelandic Kronin in hand. 

The bus driver looked at us expectantly. 

We told him we wanted to go to Hvammstangavegur.

He continued to look at us expectantly. 

Now, if you remember, I did my research. I knew that this was the right bus. I checked the signs outside over a dozen times to make sure it was the right bus. I thoroughly examined Google Earth. It pulled up at the right time, so I KNEW it was the right bus. Right? 

He continued to look at me like he had no idea what I was talking about. I repeated "Hvammstangavegur" upwards of a dozen times, trying to change my pronunciation and/or inflection.  His expression never changed. I remember the expression because the bus was full of people looking at me with the same one on each of their faces. I knew we couldn't very well get off the bus and wait for the next one, because the next one wasn't until exactly 5:34pm (Like I said, I did my research.) 

I asked him if it was the bus going to Akureyri. Which of course he understood immediately, and assumed that we wanted to go all the way to Akureyri...which in any other circumstance would be okay, except that then he wanted to charge us about 5 times the amount we really needed to pay. No thanks.

After 10 minutes of nothing but blank stares, I, on the brink of desperation, take out my phone and type in "Hvammstangavegur". Dennis, the bus driver, and I simultaneously breathe a sigh of relief. He repeats, "Hvammstangavegur?" Exactly. the. way. I. had. said. it. As quickly as we can, we pay our fares and ignore the icy stares coming from all around.

Let's be thankful we weren't trying to get here.

I now know the word for spider (kónguló), horse (hestur), and I can say 'yes' (já) and 'no' (nei) and 'good night' (Góðan nótt) and "cheers" (skál), but I still cannot properly pronounce the wretched name of the town we lived in for three weeks. Icelandic is not for me. 

Dennis WalkerComment