Well, the first thing that I have to get out of the way is this:
In the U.S., there are not many people can relate to mentioning a place or a language and then being asked, “where is that?” or “where do they speak that?”
As far as the United States are concerned, I have come across a grand total of ZERO people outside of the Polyglot Bar who had any clue that the Faroe Islands existed. Who can blame them? Most people in Europe probably are aware of their existence because of Football (Soccer? Should I use the word Soccer?)
So, let’s get this straight:
Faroese is related to Old Norse and Icelandic. It is an endangered language and the language used by about 90% of the population of the Faroe Islands and various expatriates of said islands.
These islands are somewhere between the North of Scotland and Iceland.
Faroese’s pronunciation scheme, like that of Danish, is riddled with a reputation for being impenetrable for foreigners. Like in the case of Danish, this can be alleviated by the fact that there are many similarities to English and German.
How many people speak it? Apparently the Faroese are scattered so wildly throughout the globe (although in very small numbers comparatively) that there is no way to know for certain. No fewer than 50,000, however.
Here is the flag, and the coat of arms is apparently a sheep (not shown).
The name “Føroyar” (what the Faroese call their country) translates to “Sheep islands”, although this was in an earlier version of the language. In Greenlandic this idea is roughly translated literally, (Savalimmiut – “places where the sheep sources are”)
National Geographic named them as the world’s most desirable island destination, a designation that many Faroese were not expecting.
In no small part could this be due to the fact that the islands, unlike many other candidates in the contest, have their own language. And very recently, this language has joined my list in a low spot on my resume!
It took me a while to grapple with the grammar but a quick look at Icelandic conjugation made me feel better about what I was dealing with (Faroese seems to be tamer in its grammar). Again, it was an issue of exposure until I began to notice patterns. The tables certainly helped, but I really wasn’t someone for rote memorization when I could use fun methods like song lyrics instead.
Without further ado, I promised you alliterative “Fun Facts about Faroese”, so here they are!
- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…now imagine something like Thursevening, Frinight, and Saturmorning. This system works in Faroese. (these would be: hóskvøld, fríggjanát, and leygarmorgun)
- The word for “unemployed” is “arbeiðsleysur”, literally, “available for work”. The equivalent appears in Norwegian and Danish today, but think about what it indicates: the implication is that, in a Viking Society, everybody works. If you don’t have work, you are available for it, not just merely being “without” it.
- There is an issue of language purity at hand in the Faroese Language, but it seems to be nowhere as strong as it would be in Iceland or in some of the Native American Languages. Language purity always has, in my opinion, amusing results. One such result in Faroese is that the word for an auto mechanic literally means “car smith” (bilsmiður).
- The Hebrides are referred to literally as the Southern Islands (suðuroggjar). The implication is that the Southern Islands from Frozen are actually a real place!
- Faroese is very similar to English on many, many fronts. Even if you flip through the first few pages of a textbook (keep in mind, there certainly are not many Faroese textbooks to be found), then you may recognize “ha?”, a question tag at the end of sentences that works in a similar way as far as colloquial English is concerned.
The example from the textbook: “An Introduction to Modern Faroese”
“Tygum eru ikki Føroyingur, ha?”
Did you think of this…
“You’re not Faroese, huh?”
Direct word-for-word translations can work between Faroese and English, testament to Viking invasions from long ago.
- Faroese has more linguistic differences among its speakers than Icelandic does. The “ei” sound is pronounced differently depending on where in the islands you are from, and even the days of the week can differ depending on how south you are (!)
- The word for “religious” literally translates to “churchly” (Kirkjuligur). There are words for other religions (“Jødi” would turn out to be useful for me in particular), but the implication is that only one religious has a hold on the Faroe Islands, and it isn’t Judaism.
- The Language’s pronunciation, especially “r” in consonant blends, goes a long way towards explaining some peculiarities about pronunciation in the other Scandinavian Languages. “Bort” in Swedish isn’t pronounced the way it would be in English, but it would be pronounced very similarly in Faroese (in which the word is “burtur”)
- And now you’re probably wondering what on earth Faroese is good for…why bother?
Well, for one, it truly honed my ability to understand the Scandinavian Languages and English by means of a language that retains many old features. The odd pronunciation had post-cedents in each of the Scandinavian Languages that were, for me, very readily noticeable.
And, of course, the music comes in many different flavors. For now, something a bit more traditionalistic, a tear-jerker song: