Do they speak English in Iceland? (2024)

Wondering whether or not they speak English in Iceland?

A question many people have before visiting Iceland is “Do they speak English in Iceland?“.

And it’s a perfectly viable question because it’s important to know in advance if there is going to be a language barrier or not.

As a country where English isn’t the first language, people are unsure whether or not English is spoken in Iceland.

I asked this question before visiting Iceland and luckily for you, I’ve now created an ultimate guide to “Do they speak English in Iceland?“.

So I’ll get straight into it!

Do they speak English in Iceland?

To sum up the answer to this question, yes, they speak English in Iceland.

English is actually spoken incredibly well in Iceland with 98% of the population being able to speak English.

Scandinavia is known for its high levels of English speaking– it’s the best region in the world for speaking English where it isn’t their first language.

In fact, English is spoken so widely in Iceland that many people even consider the English language to be the second official language of Iceland. Of course, Icelandic remains in number one.

Another demonstration of how well the Icelanders speak English is that the University of Iceland offers degree courses which are taught entirely in English.

A picture of a waterfall in Iceland. Do they speak English in Iceland? Yes.

There are lots of reasons why Icelanders are so good at speaking English. Firstly, they are taught English in school from a young age; secondly, tourism is one of the main industries in Iceland and most tourists speak English to an extent; thirdly, they don’t dub their TV shows; and many other reasons.

A poll showed that 88% of Icelandic people hear English every single day. I don’t know about you, but hearing a different language every single day in my home country might lead me to want to learn it.

It’s great to know that going to Iceland is possible with only being able to speak English. It’s an amazing country to visit, and being able to communicate effectively with locals is a huge plus.

Unfortunately, Iceland isn’t included in the EF EPI ratings, which ranks countries based on their ability to speak English as a second language, but I imagine it would be right up there.

As I said earlier, Scandinavians speak English really well, and Nordic countries dominate the top spots in the EF EPI rankings. English is spoken just as well in Iceland as in these other countries, so in my opinion, it’s fair to consider Iceland as one of the best countries in the world for speaking English as a second language.

So to answer the question, “Do they speak English in Iceland?“, the answer is yes, English is spoken very well by Icelanders.

Should you learn Icelandic before visiting Iceland?

As you’ll have read above, English is spoken remarkably well by the Icelandic population, but you might be wondering whether it’s worthwhile learning some Icelandic before heading to the Land of Fire and Ice.

The answer is, not really. There’s no reason to buy an Icelandic language guidebook or start learning Icelandic on DuoLingo.

It’s a really hard language to learn and it involves sounds that aren’t in English so your pronunciation will probably be awful, and the truth is, there’s not much point.

I know it’s a typical ignorant English-speaker thing to say “there’s no point in learning a new language because they speak English”, but it actually is true in this case. Only 350,000 people speak Icelandic in the whole world.

That’s less than the population of Iceland!

But I would recommend learning some basic phrases. Not for practicality purposes – because everyone speaks English – but as a courtesy to the country you are visiting.

A picture of a waterfall in Iceland.

Icelandic Phrases to Learn for Iceland

Even though English is spoken really well in Iceland, I always like to learn a few phrases in the local language when visiting a new country, which in this case, is Icelandic.

It’s a unique language and it can be hard to learn, but taking 10 or 15 minutes to learn some manners like “hello” or “thank you” is something I highly recommend.

You don’t need to know any Icelandic to visit Iceland, but it’s a nice gesture and shows you put some effort into learning about the country you are visiting. I always find the locals really appreciate it and it brings a smile to their faces.

Though that might be them laughing at pronunciation! Joking- they do really appreciate it. So here are some phrases I would spend time learning before visiting Iceland.

EnglishIcelandicPronounced
Hellohallóhah-loh
Pleasevinsamlegastvin-sam-leh-gahst
Thankstakktahk
Yesyow
Noneinay
Goodbyeblessbles
How are you?hvernig hefurðu það?kver-nik hev-urs-thu thah
Excuse meafsakið migaf-sa-kith mik
Do you speak English?talar þú ensku?ta-lar thu ens-koo

All of these will help you get by in Iceland and I promise you, the reactions from the locals will be worth the small effort. If you don’t want to learn any, that’s fine! But I would say as a bare minimum, at least know how to say Iceland in Icelandic, which is “Ísland”.

Can you visit Iceland only speaking English?

Yes, it is definitely possible to visit Iceland only speaking English.

Going one step further, it’s possible to live in Iceland, only speaking English.

English is spoken so well throughout Iceland and quite literally nearly every single person speaks English well enough to have a conversation with you and understand what you are saying.

But if you’re visiting Iceland for an extended period of time, or are moving to Iceland, I would definitely consider learning the basic phrases I outlined above.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that yes, it’s actually really easy to visit Iceland only speaking English.

A picture of the Church in Reykjavik where services are held in Icelandic and English- a good example of how English is spoken in Iceland.

Do they speak English in Iceland: FAQ

Below are some questions related to “Do they speak English in Iceland?” along with my answers to each question.

How commonly is English spoken in Iceland?

English is very widely spoken in Iceland, especially in urban areas and among the younger population.

Are Icelanders friendly?

Yes, very friendly. Icelanders are generally known for their friendliness and hospitality towards visitors from around the world.

Is it difficult to learn Icelandic?

Learning Icelandic can be challenging due to its unique grammar and pronunciation, but like with learning any language, there are resources available for dedicated learners.

Can a Brit live in Iceland?

Yes, a British citizen can live in Iceland. They would need to follow immigration and residency requirements set by Icelandic authorities, but it’s possible to live there. English is also widely spoken so it won’t be an issue communicating with Icelanders.

Conclusion: Do they speak English in Iceland?

And there you have it, a complete guide to “Do they speak English in Iceland?

To summarise, yes, English is really widely spoken in Iceland.

It’s really easy to visit Iceland only speaking English, and you won’t have any problems with a language barrier.

That being said, I also recommend learning some basic Icelandic phrases as it’s courteous and puts a smile on the locals’ faces.

Enjoy your trip to Iceland, it’s an extraordinary place! 🙂