Iceland Airwaves Culture Preview: Language Preservation and Etiquette (LISTEN)

We leave tomorrow for Iceland Airwaves to cover the festival and cultural stories! Follow our adventures live beginning Nov. 4 right here on our blog and our main class page where we’ll be reviewing shows each night, producing audio stories and more. Check out a story from our preview show, which aired on WCRX.

If your name is Ben, Carrie, Jennifer or Liam, then you definitely weren’t born in Iceland. For the past 25 years, the Icelandic Naming Committee has been regulating what new parents can call their children as a way of protecting their country’s ancient language. Icelanders have a great respect for their words and if you plan on visiting the country, now is a good time for you to start respecting it, too.

Since its formation in 1991, the Icelandic Naming Committee’s main mission has been to protect and prolong the language and culture of the country. The committee has approved approximately 1,800 male and 1,900 female names that may be given to any newborn child born within Iceland. In the past few years, there have been cases where the naming law was doing more harm than good. That explains why over 60% of Icelanders surveyed by the Social Science Research Institute want to do away with the law. Members of Icelandic Parliament, like the Minister of Interior Affairs Ólöf Nordal, agree and are working to put an end to the 20-year old personal name restrictions.

Considering how much Icelanders love and respect their ancient Viking language, it’s no surprise that they want to share it with the people who visit their country. Director of the Icelandic Associate of Chicago Lena Hallgrímsdóttir explains that Icelanders will always appreciate a tourist who attempts to learn the Icelandic language, even though it is a difficult one. Even learning simple phrases like “goðan daginn,” which means good morning, or “takk” meaning thank you, goes a long way in showing your respect for the Icelandic people and their unique culture.

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