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Before jumping right into reading entire news stories on Icelandic sites like RÚV and Vísir, one thing I did when first starting out in Icelandic was to just translate the headlines. You can actually learn quite a bit of vocabulary that way, without the seemingly huge task of translating several paragraphs of just one article. That’s not to say there isn’t some challenge involved – media headlines don’t always read like normal sentences 🙂 But you can generally expect to get a noun and a verb out of it, and it gives you the opportunity to focus on just a few words. Here are some examples:

Næstum helmingur ók of hratt
Nearly half drove too fast

You could probably also say ‘Nearly half were speeding’, it seems flexible enough. It’s also good practice to think of different ways of saying the same thing, and making it sound like a news headline instead of a direct translation. In this one we get the verb for to drive:

að aka – to drive
present past
ég ek ók
þú ekur ókst
það ekur ók
við ökum ókum
þið akið ókuð
þau aka óku

Definitely an irregular beast 🙂 Let’s look at the rest of the words:

næstum adv                           nearly
helmingur m (-s, -ar)                half
of adv                               too
hraður adj (f hröð)                  fast, quick

Here we see hraður in the neuter form, hratt.

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Aðalskipulag borgarinnar samþykkt
City master plan approved

In this case we see a participle of the verb samþykkja:

að samþykkja – to agree, approve
present past
ég samþykki samþykkti
þú samþykkir samþykktir
það samþykkir samþykkti
við samþykkjum samþykktum
þið samþykkið samþykktuð
þau samþykkja samþykktu

The first word is a compound with the prefix aðal-, which imparts the meaning of main, chief, primary. In this case I went with master. The word it is attached to is skipulag, which can mean organization or plan.

Note that the word for city (borg) is not only in the genitive case but also has the definite article. I chose to leave it out of the translation, again for the ‘headline’ sound.

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Stórt krapaflóð í Fljótsdal
Big slushfall in Fljotsdalur

Here’s an example with no verb. The most interesting thing is the compound krapa·flóð. Other than meaning flood, you find flóð in compounds related to certain types of flows, like snow. In that case, snjó·flóð means avalanche. Here it’s slush instead of snow. And going back to the beginning of the title, we’re tipped off that krapaflóð is a neuter noun from the adjective stórt, from stór – big, large.

krap (n) – slush, sludge
singular plural
nom krap kröp
acc krap kröp
dat krapi kröpum
gen kraps krapa

Another thing to be aware of when translating place names is that they decline, so when giving an English equivalent, you have to first find the nominative form before doing the transliteration. We can deduce that Fljótsdal is in the dative due to the preposition í, then recognize that dal come from dalur (valley, dale). Make use of the search capability in the BÍN site that lets you put in any form of a word, I use this a lot 🙂

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Fengu skrúfu í pizzuna
Screw found in pizza

So I took great liberties with that one; a direct translation would be ‘Got screw in pizza’. From the verb for get, receive:

að fá – to get, receive
present past
ég fékk
þú færð fékkst
það fékk
við fáum fengum
þið fáið fenguð
þau fengu

Of course skrúfa is screw, and hopefully everyone can figure out pizzuna 🙂

· · ·

Tvöfaldur íslenskur sigur í spjótkasti
Double Icelandic victory in javelin

Another with no verb, but tvöfaldur leads to interesting things. Here it means double, and is actually a compound with faldur, which is like -fold in English, so twofold in this case. You can use other numbers as well, so þrefaldur – triple, fjórfaldur – quadruple, fimmfaldur – quintuple, etc. Einfaldur would be single.

The word for the javelin itself is spjót – it is paired with the word for throw (kast) to indicate the event. Since í is indicating the dative case here, kast becomes kasti.

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So even if you just look at the headlines, you can learn quite a bit, and narrow your focus to just a handful of words. Over time it all adds up, you start reading more and more of the articles themselves, and slowly but surely you’re looking up fewer and fewer words 🙂