Icelandic is an Indo-European language of the Germanic family. It is the official language of Iceland, and is spoken by 280,000 people.
The alphabet is based on the Roman one, and contains 32 letters, including a number of special letters, the so-called “runes”, derived from the ancient runic alphabet, which are similar to our own but are read differently. For the highly educated Icelanders, the use of the ancient language of the Vikings is a matter of pride, a sign of their close bond with the past, and foreign language books are translated into Icelandic to keep the mother tongue alive.
The isolation of Iceland and its strong written culture have preserved the ancient language in excellent condition, so that it has hardly changed over the last 1,000 years, in particular in its written form, but also in the oral form, which makes it the Nordic language closest to the ancient tongues. An Icelander today can easily read a saga written by his ancestors in the thirteenth century, something which an Italian cannot do with texts written in Latin.
The Danish occupation of Iceland from 1380 to 1918 had almost no effect on the Icelandic language, which continued to be used for everyday affairs. Danish was only used for official communications, as was English during the American occupation from 1940 to the Fifties.
In 1944 the Constitution established Icelandic as the official language of the country and since then it is the only one to be used in official documents and public debates.
Iceland is not part of the EU, but, like Norway, is a signatory of the Schengen Agreement establishing the free circulation of persons, goods and services within the EU.