Click on words to see their translations.
There are two different R sounds in Icelandic. One is an R using the voice , and one is an R without using the voice .
Normal R (R with the voice)
This R sound is pronounced by tapping the roof of your mouth once quickly with the tongue. This is the same sound as the American autumn or better. You may also recognize it from being the same as the hard Scottish R or the same as the sound in the Spanish caro.
Icelanders themselves think they are rolling their R’s (and will teach that to foreigners), but this is actually not the case.[a]
This is the default R sound:
- to bevera, krona (Icelandic currency)króna, difficulterfitt, to answersvara, to watchhorfa, redrauður, brotherbróðir, hearheyra
Breathy R (R without using the voice)
The other R sound in Icelandic is the R without using the voice.
Start with the r sound in the American red. Keep your tongue in that position. Then blow air over the tip of your tongue.[b] To some foreigners this sounds similar to an s sound.
This sound occurs if the R is at the end of a sentence, and when an R is next to certain letters that aren’t using the voice.[c]
- strongsterkur, are youertu, toughhart, nothingekkert, answersvar, morphinemorfín
This sound also occurs when the two letters “hr” are written together. Notice that here you don’t create any H sound in your throat.
- ravenhrafn, movehreyfa, ram, male sheephrútur, callhringja, scaredhræddur
- rn – The letter cluster “rn” is pronounced “dn”As a student, you should always pronounce it as “dn”, it sounds better and more natural. Native speakers do occasionally pronounce it as “rdn” (especially when speaking slowly), but you should try not to.The reason for this odd pronunciation is that when you go from “r” to “n”, you want do start with a strong “n” sound, which is easier to do if the “n” is pronounced like “dn”. Now you have “rdn”. The “r” is difficult to pronounce in this position, so it is overshadowed by that “d” sound, so you’re left with a “dn” sound.
- börn, birnirnir, forn, kjarni
- rl – The letter cluster “rl” is pronounced “dl” or “rdl”
- karlar ([kadlar]), varla ([vadla])
- perla ([perdla]), þyrla ([þyrdla])
The name of the letter is “err”.