How an Icelandic Translation Service Can Aid Your Company’s Growth


According to the World Bank’s Human Development Index (HDI), Iceland is the 4th most developed country on earth! 

That means the Icelandic people are healthy, wealthy, and well-educated. Not only that, but they’re keen to do business with foreign companies.

However, to really succeed in that market requires a fair bit of Icelandic translation. This helps to ensure that documents, conversations, and audio-visual files are understood by both parties.

Let’s take a deeper look at the beauty of the Icelandic language and the benefits of Icelandic translation.

The Icelandic Language

Roughly 97% of Iceland’s 370,000 people speak Icelandic. On top of that, a few thousand more speak Icelandic in Canada, Denmark, and the United States.

Although both English and Icelandic have Germanic roots, Icelandic words differ a great deal from English. That’s partly because Iceland is proud of its heritage and wary of taking on too many loan words. In fact, it has a language academy that coins new words based upon older Icelandic words.

For example, the word for “computer” is “tölva.” It’s a mix of “tala” (or number) and “völva” (or prophetess) to create something like the “prophetess of numbers.”

Let’s take a look at a few other peculiarities.

Speaking Icelandic

Although some Icelandic words, such as “halló” (hello), sound just like the English, other words and phrases are totally unique. Let’s take a look at three examples.

Expressing Ignorance 

In Icelandic, when you want to say that someone is unaware of the world around them, you say they are “blindur er bóklaus maður” – “blind as a bookless man”. This expression speaks to the fact that Icelanders love to read.

In fact, per capita, Iceland has the highest amount of bookstores, publications, and translations of international literature in the world.

Long Icelandic Words

Icelandic has its fair share of incredibly long words. For example, “Vaðlaheiðarvegavinnuverkfærageymsluskúraútidyralyklakippuhringur.”

This 64-letter word has a very specific meaning. In short (pun intended), it means the “key ring of the key chain of the outer door to the storage tool shed of the road workers on the Vaðlaheiði.”

Showing Surprise

If you want to show surprise while speaking Icelandic, then you’ll have to use a phrase that’s, well, surprising. That phrase is “Það er rúsínan í pylsuendanum” and it means “that’s a raisin at the end of the hot dog.”

In all fairness, finding a raisin at the end of a hot dog would be quite surprising.

Doing Business in Iceland

Iceland boasts an impressive array of awards for a small nation. On top of the HDI ranking above, Iceland has the 3rd highest median wealth per adult according to Credit Suisse.  

To add one more, in the World Bank’s last ease of doing business index, Iceland placed #26 out of 190 countries. 

In everything from health-care to education to income equality, Iceland is high up on the list. They have a strong work ethic, low unemployment, and a willingness to work with other countries.

    Speaking Icelandic: Is It Easy?

    The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) considers speaking Icelandic to be more difficult than German and Malay but less difficult than Arabic or Chinese. It’s a category III language that has quite a few cultural and linguistic differences when compared to English.

    If you put in 25 hours a week of study, FSI suggests it will take 44 weeks to reach proficiency.

    Icelandic is considered difficult for three primary reasons:

    • pronunciation
    • vocabulary
    • grammar

    Pronunciation is difficult because words are long and tend to have accents and letters that aren’t common in English. Vocabulary is difficult because there is a lack of English loan words. The verb conjugations are also quite difficult to master. 

    Benefits of Icelandic Translation

    If you plan on doing business in Iceland, it’s helpful to read, write, and speak the language. If that’s not possible, then the next best option is to hire an Icelandic translation service to take care of everything.  

    DTS Language Services can help you with written documents, audio/visual files, phone calls, and more. Let’s take a look.

    Translation of Written Documents

    Free online translations are fine for greetings, directions, and other simple words and phrases.

    However, when you need to translate medical concepts, legal terms, and financial documents, something more robust is required. That means hiring an Icelandic translation service that employs human experts who know how to convey the right meaning and context from the source language to the target language. 

    Gambling with inaccurate translations can not only lead to miscommunication, it can get you into medical, legal, or financial trouble. 

    Transcription of Audio and Video

    Audio and video transcriptions can help everyone from academics doing ethnography or narrative analysis to market researchers doing phone surveys and in-depth interviews.

    DTS supports the work of academics, marketers, and plenty of others (law enforcement, businesses, public health organizations, etc.) through three main transcription services. 

    These are:

    • Monolingual transcription 
    • Interpretive transcription 
    • Double Column transcription

    Monolingual transcribes an Icelandic audio/video file into written Icelandic. Interpretive transcribes an Icelandic audio/video file into written English. Double Column transcribes Icelandic audio/video into both written Icelandic and written English.

    Translation of Phone Conversations

    Although document translations and audio/visual transcriptions are helpful, sometimes the best way to build a deeper understanding and connection with someone is through a phone call.

    Being able to talk over the phone with someone in Iceland in real-time without flying over there is a real time and money saver. If you don’t speak the language, DTS can provide on-demand phone interpreters to help out.

    Interpreters are available 24/7/365. Once you’re connected, simply speak into the phone and the interpreter will provide an Icelandic translation to the person on the other end.

    Aid Your Company’s Growth with an Icelandic Translation

    If you don’t have the time to master Icelandic but would like to start doing business in Iceland, then an Icelandic translation service is your best bet. 

    Whether you need to translate technical documents for a manufacturing company or transcribe interviews for an educational institution, DTS Language Services can help.

    With nearly 50 years experience with professional translation, DTS is well positioned to help aid your company’s growth in Iceland. Request a quote today to see how. 

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