How To Learn Old Norse?

Old Norse is the language of most Norse mythology and the language Vikings used to communicate.

Luckily for those interested in knowing more about it, Old Norse still exists and can be learned like other languages.

To learn Old Norse, one should buy a dictionary to familiarize oneself with the language and textbooks for more advanced learning.

Additionally, there are descriptive books, audio lessons, and apps that can make learning easier. It could be helpful to start Icelandic first since it’s similar enough.

Old Norse is a fascinating language steeped in the glorious and fearsome history of the sea-faring Vikings. If you would like to speak as the Vikings did, there are many options for you to explore.

This article will explore the best way to learn this ancient language and additional trips that can make it much easier for anyone who wants to learn Old Norse.

Also, see Who Is Havi in Norse Mythology? to learn more.

Modern Icelandic Is a Good Start to Learning Old Norse

Old Norse still exists as a language, thanks to documents that have survived dating back centuries ago. However, it’s not spoken by many people since it’s not an official language.

This lack of speakers may pose challenges for someone who wants to learn how to understand and use it.

A good option would be to start with a language similar enough: Icelandic. [1]

Icelandic is the closest to Old Norse among the Scandinavian languages. [2]

Many consider Icelandic a modern version of Old Norse, so it’s an excellent way for someone to get familiar with the basics and the particular sounds.

Tips for Learning Icelandic

Since Icelandic is spoken by many more people, finding resources on how to learn it is easier. People interested in learning Old Norse can start by learning the Icelandic basics in many different ways.

  • Buying introductory textbooks: If the purpose is to learn Icelandic well before moving on to Old Norse, it might be a good idea to invest in books that explain the basics of the language. Understandably, it’s relatively easy to find Icelandic textbooks compared to Old Norse.
  • Watching videos, TV shows, and films in Icelandic: If the purpose is only to create some contact with this family of languages, it’s easier and cheaper to consume Icelandic media. Plenty of videos on different platforms use simple language for beginners; alternatively, one could watch Icelandic films and TV series.
  • Interacting with people who speak Icelandic: The best way to learn how to speak a language is to talk to the locals or anyone who speaks the language more or less fluently. This process may be challenging for people living in other countries, considering Iceland is small and isolated. However, travel to Iceland would be a good idea if you have the time and the means.
  • Using language learning apps: Fortunately, there are plenty of language learning apps available, free or paid, that can teach almost every language in the world, including Icelandic. [3] An app would only teach the basics, but that’s enough to get started on Old Norse.

Dictionaries Can Help You Learn Old Norse

A dictionary is an excellent first step for learning any language. It helps people understand the vocabulary they need to use and familiarize themselves with words and phrases.

The goal is not to learn words by heart but to learn some practical terms and get a sense of the grammatical rules of the language.

It might be harder to find an Old Norse dictionary than one in a modern language, but it’s not impossible. There are several options in libraries and large bookstores.

Additionally, you will find numerous Old Norse dictionaries online.

There Are Old Norse Textbooks Available

Like dictionaries, books for learning Old Norse aren’t typically available at the nearest store. However, several books can help people who want to teach Old Norse take the first steps.

They can be easily found online but are also available in some libraries.

Best Books for Learning Old Norse

Only a few books aim exclusively to teach Old Norse, but other options can help build a foundation for learning this language.


The best and most comprehensive textbooks are the Viking Language books by Jesse Byock. [4]

These books can teach students different levels and provide all the necessary instructions and examples to learn a new language. 

The Viking Language books are language-learning textbooks. There’s one book dedicated to exercises and another that explores the history of the language.

Descriptive Books

Michael Barnes’ New Introduction To Old Norse books can also be helpful. [5] They cover basic grammar rules and a glossary.

A beginner may find them a bit advanced, but they are still beneficial for learning the language rules and translating text.

Icelandic Textbooks

As mentioned above, Icelandic textbooks can give one a good idea of the basics of the Old Norse Language.

Nowadays, when people refer to Old Norse, they refer to the Old Icelandic dialect of this language. 

There are others, like Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish, but most texts in Old Norse that have survived come from Iceland.

Plenty of good Icelandic textbooks that can help anyone take the first steps to learning Old Norse.

Buying Audio Lessons To Learn Old Norse

For those who prefer auditory means of learning a language, there are Old Norse audio lessons available online. [6]

The Viking Language book series mentioned above also offers high-quality audio lessons and exercises for different levels of learners.

Alternatively, there are several other audio sources online that help with the basics of Old Norse. You will find them on websites that specialize in Old Norse in particular or simply Norse mythology.

Using Language Learning Apps and Websites

Sources for learning Old Norse are not limited to books and audio lessons. Plenty of websites offer free, interactive lessons for beginners and other levels of learners.

Additionally, YouTube has several videos by Old Norse experts explaining the basics of the language and more.

Nowadays, it’s also possible to learn Old Norse through apps specializing in Old Norse only. However, apps are helpful supplementary tools rather than the main ones for learning Old Norse.

[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source
[4] Source
[5] Source
[6] Source

Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

Related Questions

error: This content is copyrighted.