A commonly held misconception in popular culture, including Hollywood movies and computer games, is that the Vikings all spoke English.
The fact is that they didn’t; they spoke entirely different languages, which have mostly been lost to time.
While there are similarities between some of these languages and English, as well as other Scandinavian languages such as Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish, they aren’t mutually comprehensible.
Here are the top five languages the Vikings spoke in their heyday of 800-1000 AD.
The Old Norse language is a Germanic language, which was the predominant language in the Scandinavian countries.
It was spoken by those who sailed on Viking ships and conquered parts of England, France, and Russia.
The earliest texts date to around AD 800. They were written in runes, but in the 13th century, they began to be written with the Latin alphabet.
Old Norse has an extensive vocabulary of words relating to seafaring and trading. The North American region has a dialect closely related to Icelandic called Norrœna.
Modern languages such as Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and Icelandic are descended from Old Norse.
These modern languages continue to use many of the same characters and some borrowed from other alphabets.
It uses the Latin alphabet with three additional letters: ð (eth), ʀ (rh), ʃ (sh). But these letters are only used in foreign words and names of places.
In Iceland, this language was used in writing from 1100 AD until 1300 AD when the Icelanders started writing in their Nordic language called Old Norse or Icelandic Norse instead of Latin.
The Icelandic language is still spoken today by some people in northern North America.
It is also spoken by some members of the Danish minority living in Greenland. Norwegian-Nynorsk: Norwegian-Nynorsk is a written form of Norwegian which had existed for 400 years before the current one became official in 1907.
The old Nynorsk version dates back to 1885, but it didn’t become popular until 1915 because it emphasized simplification over standardization.
Unlike the other two languages on this list, Norwegian-Nynorsk is not derived from an older form of a language which explains why it isn’t a Scandinavian branch like Faroese or Swedish.
Norwegian-Nynorsk can be classified as West Scandinavian, like the Icelandic language, because they share many similarities.
I bet you never thought about the fact that there were many languages spoken by the Viking people.
And it’s not just because they were a pretty diverse bunch. Turns out, they spoke over a dozen different languages and dialects!
Some of these dialects have been lost to time, but others we know about thanks to archaeological finds from northern Europe.
The most common language spoken by the Viking people was Proto-Norse, an ancestor of modern Germanic languages such as Swedish and Norwegian.
We also know about Norse Danish tongues and Nordic languages which are distinct dialects of Proto-Norse but more specific to Scandinavia.
In England, Old Danish was first recorded in Northern Lincolnshire where some Viking settlers were allowed to stay after 878.
The oldest records are runic inscriptions on memorial stones dating back to the 10th century.
In this period, most speakers were bilingual in both Old Norse and Old English because England had been mostly Anglo-Saxon up until then.
At first, it was not easy for these dialects to understand each other but as time went on they became mutually intelligible.
Today there is no trace of the old Northern dialect since it died out with its last speaker in 1859.
In contrast, Swedish is still spoken by over ten million people so learning Swedish would be a more useful language to learn than Old Danish.
Norwegian has fewer speakers than Swedish but its colonial history is much more fascinating so if you want a Scandinavian language to learn, Norwegian would be your best option.
In Norse mythology, the Æsir are the major gods and include Odin, Thor, Baldr, Tyr, Heimdallr, and Týr.
The Vanir are a family of gods who were initially enemies of the Æsir. However, they eventually reach a truce.
The two sides agree to cooperate in future battles and share Freya as their common goddess.
In addition to these two families of gods is a third family of minor nature deities called Jötnar (giants), who were often opposed by both groups yet sometimes helped them.
A few notable beings from this group include Loki, Skaði, and Aegir. In Norse mythology, most mortals, including humans, live in Midgard.
Some humans (e.g., kings), dwarves, and jötnar can choose to live among the gods in Asgard.
Other than physical realms within our world, dwarves could create realms through skillful play with the mead of poetry which was thought to be eternal, but none of these alternative worlds ever seem to have thrived or had any importance to mythological events whatsoever.
The Viking languages include Old Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Old English, and Gaelic. The most widely spoken language among Vikings was Old Norse.
Yes, however, it depends on the quality of your commitment to the learning process.
The languages closest to Old Norse today are Icelandic, Faroese, and Norwegian. These three Scandinavian languages are spoken by around 580,000 people today.