Although Modern Icelandic is a language spoken fluently by only about 320,000 of the world’s more than 7 billion inhabitants, UC Berkeley considers it important enough to offer as a regular course for the first time this fall.
The idea is to facilitate Berkeley students’ work on Iceland by relating to the language made legendary by Viking sagas about the explorers’ ninth-century settlement of the island on the southern edge of the Arctic Circle.
The Scandinavian department and Institute of European Studies are co-sponsoring the beginning language instruction in back-to-back, fall and spring semesters, joining just two other universities in the United States that teach Modern Icelandic.
Due to Iceland’s “language purism,” Modern Icelandic develops its own terms for everything from individual dinosaur species to obscure medical phenomena, says linguist-lecturer Jackson Crawford, who will teach Berkeley’s new Icelandic class to students on campus and those teleconferencing in from UCLA.
In addition to Modern Icelandic, the Berkeley Language Center reports a revival this year of the teaching of Khalkha Mongolian, the standard language of the country that stretches from the Gobi Desert to Siberia.
The two new classes bring to 59 the number of foreign languages taught at Berkeley.
Learn more about the staying power of the Icelandic language on Berkeley News.