Dagur íslenskrar tungu – Icelandic Language Day: 2020 November 16th

Today is Dagur íslenskrar tungu, or day of the Icelandic tongue. It is an opportunity to appreciate the Icelandic language in all its unique glory. Icelandic means different things to different people, both native speakers and learners new and experienced, but most would also agree it is a language at risk.

Held since 1996, Icelandic language day takes place on the 16th November; Jónas Hallgrímsson’s birthday. Jónas (1807-1845) is one of Iceland’s most famous writers. He was an author, poet, translator, and naturalist, known for his warm wit and tireless thirst for knowledge. 


He is chiefly remembered for his lyrical poems describing Icelandic scenery. An admirer of the European Romantic poets, especially Heinrich Heine, he adapted and translated much foreign poetry into Icelandic. He was critical of the rímur, narrative poems in traditional, artificial form, composed in stereotyped metres and phrases, which had long been popular in Iceland, and he strove, as William Wordsworth did in England, to purify the language of poetry.

Icelandic language day is not about eradicating English and other foreign languages. Rather, it is about reminding people why Icelandic is important and why it is worth the effort of preserving it as a living, evolving, everyday language for many, many years to come.  

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