Old Norse -> Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

[These are all based on actual questions and responses I have received.]

Is this course really free? What's the catch?
Yes. It's really just a website and a mailing list.

Can I buy an audio CD with Old Norse recordings from you?
I haven't prepared anything like that but I suppose I could if enough people show interest. Contact me if you're interested.

Who are you?
All first person singular pronouns on these pages refer to Haukur Žorgeirsson unless otherwise noted. First person plural refers to myself and Óskar Gušlaugsson.

How do I greet people in Old Norse?
See section 2.5 of lesson 2.

What? I thought 'heilsa' was the Old Norse greeting!
I'm afraid that's some sort of misunderstanding.

I don't want to greet people with 'heil'; it looks too national socialist for me!
Don't do it, then. But if it's any comfort to you it's pronounced more like the English 'hail' than the German 'heil'.

Isn't there some other Old Norse greeting I can use instead?
Not really.

The toons are great! Why aren't there more of them?
Because I can't draw and Óskar isn't very active in the project any more. You're welcome to contact him and try to nag/flatter him into doing some more. Realize, though, that these things take a lot of effort.

How close are Old Norse and Modern Icelandic?
About as close as 21st century English and Shakespeare's English, or maybe the King James Bible.

How close are Old Norse and Faroese?
About as close as 21st century English and Chaucer's English.

How close are Old Norse and Danish/Swedish/Norwegian?
About as close as Modern English and Old English.

I have some Modern Icelandic material - will that help me learn Old Norse?
Yes, probably.

Won't learning Modern Icelandic and Old Norse at the same time cause me to mix everything up?
I'm not sure but I doubt you'd have a serious problem.

I want to learn Old Norse - why should I want to have anything to do with Modern Icelandic? Modern pronunciation? Pah!
Well. If someone learns English only to read Shakespeare you'd still expect him to learn the modern pronunciation, right? And be able to communicate with modern natives?

Yeah, you're right! Why would I want to have anything to do with this silly "reconstructed pronunciation" at all?
Maybe you don't, it's entirely up to you. But the old pronunciation does offer some insight into other aspects of the language.

Can I really learn Old Norse from this course even if I have no prior knowledge?
Hopefully. But it is very helpful if you have some prior knowledge of (English) grammar and other languages. It's best if you've got a working knowledge of some language besides English to begin with. Old Norse is probably not an ideal second language for monolingual English speakers to learn.

I'm a mainland Scandinavian - does it make sense for me to use this course?
Hopefully. But the course is crafted for English speakers. We'd have written it somewhat differently if it had been intended for, say, Danes. Of course you can use it but you may find the vocabulary is introduced a bit too slowly for your tastes.

I already know Icelandic / am Icelandic, is there anything of interest for me here?
You definitely have no use for the lessons. For a quick overview of the difference between Old Icelandic and Old Norse see the second edition of Ķslensk oršabók. As for this website you may be interested in the rune puzzles which are challenging even if you know the language.

How do I say [whatever] in Old Norse?
Okay, I get a lot of questions like that so I'm going to try to tell you how you have the best chance of getting a useful reply.
First of all you're better of sending the question to the mailing list than to me personally. That way, even if I don't answer someone else might.
Secondly you should try to sound like you've done your homework. Spend some time framing your question and tell us what you've done so far to find the answer. Be polite. People who ask hit-and-run questions asking other people to do their work for them are generally not well thought of.
Thirdly consider whether Old Norse really did have the term(s) you're looking for. It's amazing how many questions I get asking me to translate some concept or idea that, as far as I know, is alien to medięval Norse culture.

How do I get started?
See this guide.

Can I print the material out and share it with a couple of friends?

Can I translate the material to another language and republish it?
I'm not sure that would be a good idea. My theory is that it for every pair of languages A and B you should use a separate approach for teaching language A to speakers of language B. Thus, a course in Old Norse for English speakers wouldn't work as well for Spanish speakers. In any case, if you're really interested in translating some of the material here drop me a line and tell me what specifically you're thinking.