WHAT do you know about Iceland?
It’s a filming location for Game of Thrones, it is home of Björk, it’s a great spot to spy the Northern Lights, and it has a notoriously convoluted language.
Tourism group Inspired by Iceland has played on the latter in a new video it hopes will draw more visitors to the North Atlantic island. And it’s hilarious.
In the video, unsuspecting tourists were asked to sing along to a song especially written by the tourism group, called the A-Ö of Iceland. It highlights all the things you can do when holidaying in the country. The song is mostly in English but some of the words are replaced by their extremely difficult to pronounce Icelandic translations — and the participants are stumped.
It starts off relatively easy: “This is the a-ö of Iceland, so try to sing along. This is the a-ö of Iceland, what could possibly go wrong?”
A lot, it seems. The tourists then bumble through words such as “bílaleigubíll” (rental car) or “torfbær” (Icelandic turf house). One man doesn’t even try when he gets to the word “þjóðgarð” (national park).
“Or hike in the ‘I can’t say that’,” he sings.
The song’s title, A-Ö of Iceland, refers to the 32-letter Icelandic alphabet. The song, performed by Icelandic comedian Steindi Jr, aims to encourage tourists to learn the Icelandic equivalent of an A-Z guide.
“We’re truly excited for you to learn the a-ö of all seven regions,” Inspired by Iceland writes on its tourism website.
The amazing thing about the Icelandic language is that is has been carefully preserved from Old Norse, an ancient language spoken by Scandinavians during about the 9th to 13th centuries. This means if you learn a few phrases, you essentially know how to speak the same language as the Vikings.
Iceland is no stranger to quirky tourism campaigns. Last year the tourism board launched “Iceland Academy”, which consisted of a series of videos teaching tourists how to fit in, such as the tongue-in-cheek “how to avoid hot-tub awkwardness” video.
These bold campaign appear to be working. Tourism to Iceland has boomed over the better part of the past decade. The number of foreign visitors to Iceland has nearly quadrupled since 2010. In 2016, Iceland welcomes almost 1.8 million international tourists, according to the Icelandic Tourism Board.
But considering the country’s population is only around 335,000 itself, the sudden influx of tourists isn’t something that the locals, or the environment, is necessarily coping with.
Iceland is known for its natural wonders — its wild and raw landscape with volcanoes, waterfall, geysers, hot springs and lava fields. But this also means its ecosystem is very delicate.
“Uncontrolled tourism does have negative impacts on the environment,” Gunnar Þór Jóhannesson, professor of geography and tourism at the University of Iceland, explained to Wired.
“So if tourism is not planned and managed properly we will see some of the natural attractions be damaged.”
An example of this is Lake Mývatn in Northeast Iceland. Environmental activists are so worried about the pressure an increasing number of tourists is having on the lake that they are calling on the government to react in the same way they would do for a natural disaster.