Icelandic language fending off an English takeover
REYKJAVIK — Two centuries ago experts predicted that Icelandic would be a dead language by now. But the doomsayers can eat their words: Icelandic is alive and kicking despite an onslaught of English brought on by modern technology.
Currently spoken by the 355,000 inhabitants of the North Atlantic island, Icelandic has repeatedly come under threat through the ages — following migrations, invasions by Norway and Denmark from the 16th to the early 20th centuries, and the Industrial Revolution.
But it has always survived, with
upon entering the workforce,” UNSW Dean of Engineering Professor Mark Hoffman said.
“They leave university not only with a first-class engineering degree, but also practical experience, plus teamwork, project management, budgeting and communications skills, all needed to do well in a corporate environment.”
For the moment, however, the students say that they just want to inspire their fellow Australians to learn more about solar technology and the planet-saving benefits of renewable energy.
“I am hoping that people will come out to see us along our journey and talk to us about the benefits of reducing our impact on our planet and how we can all contribute to this cause,” Liang said. the written language little changed since the 11th century.
Yet English usage has in recent decades skyrocketed in Iceland — as around the world — thanks to the dominance of US pop culture as well as the adoption of modern technology such as the internet, YouTube and smartphones with lightning speed.
Visitors to the capital Reykjavik need only ask locals for directions to quickly discover that Iceland is in fact bilingual.
For youths here, speaking English is simply a matter of necessity.
“I have to be able to read English because it’s everywhere and it’s universal,” 11-year-old Sigthor Elias Smith said — in Icelandic.
Amid some concern that English is too prevalent, Iceland has adopted several measures to promote its own language.
In 1996, the government designated Nov 16 as Icelandic Language Day, while in 2011, a new law recognized Icelandic as the country’s official language.
To counteract the dominance of English in technology, Alfredsdottir has also earmarked 2.4 billion kronur (around $19 million) to develop Icelandic versions of voice recognition services for virtual personal assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.
Sigthor and Eva’s teacher, Solveig Reynisdottir, worries that the tsunami of English that children are exposed to online is affecting their Icelandic vocabulary.
“The children sometimes lack words because there are many they’ve never heard,” she said as she handed out a language comprehension assignment to her 23 students.
“The technological changes are a real challenge.”