Languages of Iceland

Languages of Iceland
Official languages Icelandic 93.2%
Main immigrant languages Polish 2.71%
Lithuanian 0.43%
English 0.32%
German 0.31%
Danish 0.31%
Portuguese 0.28%
Filipino 0.24%
Thai 0.17%
Latvian 0.14%
Other 1.89%
Main foreign languages English
Danish / Norwegian / Swedish
French / German / Spanish
Sign languages Icelandic Sign Language
Common keyboard layouts
Source Statistics Iceland (2008)
The sign in front of the National Museum of Iceland, bilingual in Icelandic and English

Iceland has been a very isolated and linguistically homogeneous island historically, but has nevertheless been home to several languages. Gaelic was native to many of the early Icelanders, the Icelandic or Norse language however prevailing, northern trade routes brought German, English, Dutch, French and Basque. Some merchants and clergymen settled in Iceland throughout the centuries, leaving their mark on culture, but linguistically mainly trade, nautical or religious terms. Excluding these and Latin words, Icelandic has altered remarkably little since settlement, the island's residents living in seclusion.

Icelandic is not only the national language, but is now “the official language in Iceland” by virtue of Act No 61/2011, adopted by parliament in 2011.[1] Icelandic Sign Language was also officially recognised by law in 2011 as a minority language with constitutional rights and the first language of the Icelandic deaf community. During the time of Danish rule, Danish was a minority language in Iceland,[2] although it is nowadays only spoken by a small number of immigrants.

Studying English and Danish (or another Scandinavian language) is mandatory for students in compulsory schools[3] and also part of many secondary-level study programmes, so knowledge of the two languages is widespread. Other foreign languages frequently studied include German, Spanish and French.

Temporary visitors and residents often make up a large portion of the population, especially in the capital Reykjavík.

See also


  1. "Act [No 61/2011] on the status of the Icelandic language and Icelandic sign language" (PDF). Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. p. 1. Retrieved 15 April 2014. Article 1; National language – official language; Icelandic is the national language of the Icelandic people and the official language in Iceland.
  2. "Iceland And The Rest Of The World" (PDF). The Reykjavík Grapevine. p. 1. Retrieved 15 April 2014. Icelandic towns were essentially turning Danish; the merchant class was Danish and well off Icelanders started speaking their language.
  3. The Icelandic National Curriculum Guide for Compulsory Schools (PDF). Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. p. 50.
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