How can a community support language acquisition?

A symposium in relations to Give Icelandic a Chance took place on Thursday, with a following workshop on Friday. The symposium was titled "How can a community support language acquisition?" and several speakers gave very interesting talks, which goes to show quite an ambition for teaching Icelandic to foreigners so that the language can be of proper use to them and make Icelandic society more accessible.

Moderator was Ólafur Guðsteinn Kristjánsson, project manager of Icelandic courses at UW, and the symposium was also streamed online. First speaker was Gísli Hvanndal Ólafsson, project manager of Icelandic for foreigners at the University of Iceland. He briefly shared his experience of teaching Icelandic as a Second Language, and spoke about discrepency in language policies withing the public sector. He also revealed that in many cases, Icelandic lessons don't take place in Icelandic, which Gísli believes is a huge liability when it comes to language acquisition and so the encouragement to learn the language becomes minimal.

Ana Belén Fernández Organista spoke next, about her experience of learning a few languages, including Icelandic which she now teaches as a second language at the University of Iceland. She compared the teaching structure and input of the languages, which showed that the input for Icelandic learners is considerably less than in other European countries.

Next was a presentation by Martina Cernotová and Kristín Björk Gunnarsdóttir from SÍMEY in Akureyri. They introduced their approach in working with students' native language when learning Icelandic as a Second language. Guðlaug Stella Brynjólfsdóttir presented the Icelandic Village, a supportive environment for Icelandic learners to become active members of the society and finally, Joanna Majewska shared her experience of learning Icelandic as an immigrant.

An exciting app, Bara tala, is an additional, digital solution in teaching Icelandic. The designers, Guðmundur Auðunsson and Hervé Debono showed the guests how the app works and allowed them to test it out, which is very promising.

Finally, the mayor of Súðavík municipality, Bragi Þór Thoroddssen, gave a short speech of encouragement and a teaser for new videos for Give Icelandic a Chance was premiered. The videos are being made by Margeir Haraldsson Arndal and Anna Sigríður Ólafsdóttir, who are interviewing immigrants in the Westfjords about their Icelandic learning and aquisition.