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Can the language of the Vikings fight off the invasion of English? (The Guardian 17 Oct 2018)

Mis à jour : 17 Oct 2018

Icelandic has retained its literary vigour since the Sagas, but TV and tourism are a growing threat
Icelanders bought 47% fewer books in 2017 than they did in 2010 ... a book fair in Reykjavik. Photograph: age fotostock/Alamy
“Coffee and kleina,” reads a large sign at a roadside coffee shop by one of the main roads in Reykjavik. Not so many years ago, such a billboard would simply have read: “Kaffi og kleina” – in the language of the Vikings, the official language of Iceland.

It is a privilege of the few to be able to read and write Icelandic, a language understood by only around 400,000 people worldwide. Icelandic, in which the historic Sagas were written in the 13th and 14th centuries, has changed so little since then on our small and isolated island, that we can still more or less read them as they were first written.

But Iceland is not so isolated anymore, and there are signs its language is facing challenges never seen before. Following the economic crash of 2008, and the subsequent collapse of the Icelandic currency (making Iceland a much cheaper destination than before), tourism has emerged as the largest industry in Iceland, with 2.5 million tourists expected to visit a country of 350,000 people this year alone.

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