Take a deep breath and relax. Next, go and get something written by
Shakespeare and read it.
Okay? Not so tough is it? Now, find a quiet place to sit down and jot
down some sonnets in the style of Shakespeare's English. How does that
one work out for you? On a scale of 0 to 100% accuracy - how do you rate
your reading? How about your writing? You'll probably see an enormous
gap between the two. How can you expect anything different to occur
with Old Norse? So - yes - we all struggle against the same wind you
As for listening? Watch one of those British comedies on PBS and
notice just how much of it you'll not understand. I remember watching an
of some British people talk about there first exposure to American movies in
They said that they always had believed that we (that is - the British and
spoke the same language - yet - they could barely understand a word. It
takes time to
adjust - and this is just English.
These are examples where you'll find yourself struggling with the
were born and raised with. Well, I hope you get the idea that you needn't
such things since they don't represent any particular difficulty of your
own. It's all
about being human.
Regarding pronunciation, I would again caution you about getting
hung-up on things
that are not really that important. Go to Haukur's and Oskar's web site at
and check out the recordings. Especially
check out Haukur's
reading, in English, of A part of Vellekla. Haukur does not sound like a
native English speaker - and why should he? I mean really, why SHOULD he
sound English, Scotch, Canadian, or Australian? He sounds like he's from
Iceland - which is GOOD since he is, in fact, from Iceland. Now, why should
YOU sound like you're from Iceland when you speak Old Icelandic?
Okay, so you know some Spanish. That's good. Here's a list.
As a first approximation, pronounce all the vowels found in both
Spanish and Old Norse just as
you would in Spanish
Roll your r's the same as well
Make the letter j like you would with English y
Make the remaining consonants like they're English except for thorn
and eth (no characters on
a Mac) which are the sounds most North Americans make when they say
[th]ink and [th]at.
As for the other vowels:
ö is a big Spanish a and u squashed together
æ is the English a-sound in the word "ash"
ø is an umlautted o which is, you say a Spanish e with the INSIDE of
your mouth and
hold the shape of your lips for the sound of a Spanish o (also for
the combination oe)
y is an umlautted u which is, you say a Spanish i with the INSIDE of
your mouth and
hold the shape of your lips for the sound of a Spanish u
(The umlautted vowels will feel absolutely alien to you and it will
be very difficult
to utter these with a straight face [for a while - that is].)
Accents mean that you hold the sound a bit longer
I think that this should be enough - unless I missed something.
Carry on my good man.
Sent: 7/30/2003 1:33 PM
Subject: [norse_course] Progress and Pronunciation Question - long
Hello all. Please be patient with my rather novice question. I'm
currently up to lesson 5, and I'm somewhat concerned about two things.
First, my progression is somewhat uneven. I feel that in translating
written from ON to English, I'm probably working well about 90-95%
accuracy. From English to ON, that drops to about 65-70%. Anyone
find the same? Something I'm doing wrong?
Second, I don't think I'm very good in the "spoken word"
pronunciation. I know there are some references in the lessons to
the pronunciation coding, but I find them very confusing. Does
anyone know of other sources for a simplified breakdown of the
various pronunciations in ON? I'm not looking for an "easy" out, but
sincerely would like to learn the correct pronunciation. Further
this, I think it's stated that ON is very similar to modern day
Icelandic. However, I've gone to an online Icelandic radio, and find
I can't understand even a single word! Even the pronunciations don't
sound similar. I thought I'd be able to pick up a few "he, she's,
we's" in the mix, but I couldn't make out anything. I have only a
rudimentary understanding of Spanish, but can make out some words and
phrases on TV/Radio, and I guess I figured it should be the same for
ON. Any thoughts?
Thank you all in advance.