Impossible Icelandic Words

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“It's not really that hard; it just rolls of the tongue,” I was told. “Eyjafjallajökull.”

Uh, what tongue are we talking about here?!? Because it surely isn't mine. A word with THAT many consonants cannot possibly just “roll off” a person's tongue. Can it?

Well, in Iceland, apparently it can.

Here, syllables squish and meld together in odd ways. Nothing is pronounced like you think it should be. There aren't enough vowels. Oh, and did I mention the weird letters like “Þ” and “ð”?

Reykjavik, Iceland

I've studied German (I have a minor in it, actually). I've muddled through basic Mandarin. I tend to have an ear for accents. But Icelandic? It is truly a language that baffles me; leaves me stupidly tongue-tied.

Close as it is to Danish, and since Danish is a Germanic language, I very naively thought that maybe I would be able to recognize a few syllables of Icelandic here and there.

But oh, how wrong I was.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Seriously, these words may as well not even be in the English alphabet.

As it turns out, I'm probably not ever meant to speak a Scandinavian language. Ever. It's just sad.

I had hoped to film myself trying to sound out various words while touring around Iceland, but I quickly realized it would be nearly impossible. My tongue just can't wrap itself around these syllables.

But, because I still want to give you something to laugh at, here are 3 Tips to Pronouncing Icelandic Words:

And now some photos to help illustrate my point of just how impossible these words are:

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

But at least Icelanders are aware of how impossible their language is for the rest of us…


… and have a good sense of humor about it.


This headrest cover made me fall in love with IcelandAir.


And I am exaggerating and being over dramatic here? Yes, of course. There are obviously plenty of people who CAN pronounce all of these words.

But I am definitely not one of them.


Have you ever encountered an language that you've really had trouble pronouncing?



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