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The Dutchwoman Who Taught Icelandic to Canadians

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The Dutchwoman Who Taught Icelandic to Canadians

Old Icelandic manuscript

Photo: Árni Magnússon Institute/Facebook.

Daisy L. Neijmann first came to Iceland aged 18 in 1982 and started learning the language right away. Now she is one of the best-known Icelandic teachers anywhere.

Upon returning home she did not forget about Iceland. In fact, her interest in the country grew rapidly and she started to learn Icelandic at university at home in the Netherlands. After many visits, Daisy moved to Iceland permanently in 2011, and she says she is pleased her parents fully understood her love of the country after their own visit.

Daisy had long been interested in Iceland, even before she ever visited the country, telling RÚV she finds it hard to put her finger on what exactly about Iceland enchanted her so much. “It was almost like a disease … having Iceland on the brain,” she laughs.

Her friends and relatives warned her against having too-high expectations. “Everyone I knew expected that when I finally came here I would be disappointed. But it was not like that at all … I felt as if I had come home, and I have felt like that ever since,” she says.

Daisy studied her master’s in Icelandic in Winnipeg, where she taught ‘West Icelanders’ (the descendents of Icelandic immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) their own ancestral tongue. That is where she met her husband, who, crucially, was willing to move with her to Iceland.

Daisy has been principle Icelandic teacher at University College London and wrote Colloquial Icelandic, which is probably the best-selling Icelandic language course to date.

Today she is working on a book about the Second World War in Iceland. Her father has told her many stories about the war in the Netherlands, she says, adding that both countries were invaded—though crucially, Iceland was invaded in a ‘friendly’ manner by the Allies, unlike Holland.

Daisy L. Neijmann was featured this week on the Samfélagið radio show.

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