My first regular update of this blog is far overdue. Thanks to everyone who’s written in to share interest and offer to help with learning Faroese! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

I’ve been traveling around the southeast US for the past several months, affording me none of the stationary time I usually need to grind into language work, so my Faroese intake has been almost wholly English translations of Faroese source material. I’ve greatly enjoyed George Johnston’s translation of 20th century Faroese poets in the Rocky Shores anthology, and I’m working on a review of the book. I’ll post thoughts on the material soon.

I’ve recently read Edwin Abbott’s Flatland: a Romance of Many Dimensions, and I’m about to conclude Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men, both works of science fiction. I’ve always loved science fiction, from my introduction to it through monthly pulp comic books in Tennessee, to my freshman year of college in love with Ray Bradbury’s short stories, to later dabblings in hard sci-fi and more philosophical and mathematical works (such as Abbott’s and Stapledon’s).

So I’m naturally asking: what is the sci-fi readership like in the Faroes? Is is a popular literary genre? Is it regarded as literary at all? Is it read more than it’s written?

I studied a lot of science fiction as an undergraduate, much of that time spent defining (and defending) what is and isn’t properly sci-fi. The end result came out much like an attempt to define what is and isn’t properly poetry: there are a lot of gray areas.

However, one of the personal measuring sticks that I use to gauge whether something is more sci-fi or fantasy is the work’s relationship to technology. I think of something as sci-fi if it explores our relationship to technology, or explores how technology affects non-technological aspects of human existence, or any combination of those elements. I don’t even think that the technology needs to be high or non-existent technology: it’s a meditation on our relationship to machines and the natural world, a speculation on the strangeness of an imagined world that we might inhabit.

What Faroe language books exist with these concerns in mind? If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to use them as practice reading material! Alternatively, if there are any translations of popular English langauge science fictoin into Faroese, that would also be wonderful to know in order to compare my new language against one I know — to proof my reading.

I hope to provide more Anki decks for download and use within the next week. Meanwhile, for Faroese poetry lovers (or the simply curious), here’s a transcription of the bibliography found in the back of Rocky Shores along with hyperlinks to locations of the texts online. I’m going to compile as many of these as I can find into a PDF file for portable reading.

1. Borrow, George. Works, edited by Clement Shorter. London, 1923, Vol. 8, pp. 205-19. A translation of a Faroese ballad.

Johnston’s referring to Borrow’s translation of The Lay of Skrymner, which can be found here.

2. Carpenter, W. H. “The Folk Songs of the Faroe Islands,” The New Englander, Vol. 41, May 1882, pp. 406-13. A brief account of the state of the language at this date and of the ballad tradition. Lokka táttur, a ballad of 96 stanzas, is given in translation.

This article and translated poem can be accessed via Cornell University’s digital archives of The New Englander. The article starts here.

3. Kershaw, N. Stories and Ballads of the Far Past. Cambridge University Press, 1921, pp. 178-216. Contains “The Faroese Ballad of Nornagest” (pp. 178-81); “The Ballad of Hjalmar and Angantyr” (pp. 184-5); “The Ballad of Arngrim’s Sons” (pp. 196-211); and “Gátu Ríma” (pp. 212-16): each one with a melody.

4. Prior, R. C. Alexander. Ancient Danish Ballads. London and Edinburgh, 1860, Vol. 1, pp. 334-42. A translation of a short Faroese ballad.

This is available through Google Books. You can access the book directly here, though I’ll present the Faroese ballad in isolation.

5. Smith-Dampier, E. M., translator. Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer. A Faroese Ballad Cycle. Oxford, 1934. A translation of the most celebrated of the Faroese ballad cycles.

Available in full at here in PDF format. (The file is about 18MB.) For good times, you can browse the Saga-Book‘s archives here.

More bibliography to come! More of everything to come! Faroese is awesome.

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Update coming

Big update coming with some new Anki flash decks and some collected translations of Faroese ballads. I’ve been accruing content for the past week and will make it available soon.

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Anki Decks!

Remember how I said that the Rocky Shores anthology was available online starting at $50? Make that $89. I bit, and that $50 copy should arrive by post in the next few days.

I’ve long studied using flashcards, but these get cumbersome and occasionally messy to handle. I’ve started using a flashcard program called Anki to convert a lot of my physical flashcards into digital formats, and I’ve uploaded them to share with anyone who will find them useful. These Anki decks are meant to accompany the chapters in Faroese: a Language Course for Beginners.

The textbook comes with an audio component, and the publishers have been thoughtful enough to make those audio files available online. To get the best use out of all of these resources, then, I’ve incorporated the audio material into the digital flashcards. Since these are Anki multimedia decks, I’ve had to upload them as .zip files. I’ll provide more technical information on how to get these decks running on your computer at the end of this blog.

I just finished testing the Anki decks that I built this weekend, and they all seem to work well. If anyone uses these and finds errors or bugs in them, please let me know. I’ll fix them as soon as I’m able. And, of course, feel free to share them! I’ll be posting more as I progress through the text, so please check back often.

Some of these decks lack audio pronunciations of the words, and I think that that weakens their potential usefulness since there’s such a gap between intuitions about pronuncuation upon reading Faroese as compared to how Faroese actually sounds. If there are any native Faroese speakers who would like to help by recording pronunciations of these words, that would be just great!

Chapter 1 Decks

Practicing Pronouncing the Faroese Alphabet. This deck displays a letter from the Faroese alphabet as a prompt, and you can practice your pronunciation before listening to the recording.

Nouns. This deck features no audio (yet). Each card prompts with the Faroese noun, and the answer shows its English translation as well as corresponding pronoun according to gender. I find that associating nouns with their gendered pronoun is more efficient and more intuitive than naming them Masculine, Neuter, or Feminine, as it more closely binds memory of the noun with its other form.

Since we’re starting to learn the inflectional endings of nouns in all genders, I’ve underlined those endings or offered an underscore at the end of words with no ending. All words are presented in their basic nominative forms, even if they appear inflected otherwise in the text. (For example, I have used feria for the word meaning “vacation” rather than the dative form that appears in the textbook, feriu.)

Question Words. This deck integrates audio samples of Faroese question words with their flashcard presentation. The deck emphasizes knowing how the Faroese words translate into English, and the pronunciation audio is offered as part of the prompt.

It also includes sample phrases using question words in sentences. These are taken straight from the book.

Greeting People. This deck helps me a lot, as I have greater difficulty memorizing specific phrases than I have remembering vocabulary and inflection patterns. It includes both the Faroese phrase and an audio sample at the prompt, and the answer is the English translation.

Samrøða 1 and Samrøða 2. I’ve broken the sample conversations into Anki decks for students who will benefit from listening to the conversation in fragments. I’ve built these to give greater control over the flow of the audio in the sample dialogues rather than as an aid for memorizing alone.

Anki allows users to replay attached audio files, and this can be an effective way of isolating lines of dialogue that are difficult to focus upon in the overall flow of the conversation. It’s also useful for practicing pronunciation of those lines without having to simultaneously manage both the physical text and the audio file.

Chapter 2 Decks

Numbers. My copy of the textbook lacks the spelling of all the numbers provided in its audio component, and this mixes pronunciation with the numbers’ spellings found on Framtak’s and Unilang’s websites. The audio file doesn’t go into inflections for numbers one, two, and three, so this Anki deck doesn’t currently feature them.

How to Use Anki Decks

1: Download and install Anki. (It’s free!)

2: Right click one of the file links above, and save it to your desktop.

3: Locate Anki’s deck folder on your computer. I found it on mine by looking in User Folder > Documents > Anki. It should be empty. You might also just search for “Anki” and look for any empty folder with that title located in a Documents subdirectory.

4: Open one of the compressed files with your preferred program. I use WinRAR. Select only the file named “shared.anki” and the folder named “”

Extract these to the Anki deck folder that we located in step 3.

5: Open Anki. Click the Import button in the lower right of the window.

6: You’ll be asked to name the deck.

I recommend the descriptive names above. The example we’re extracting is Chapter 2’s numbers lesson, so we might name this deck “Faroese Chapter 2 Numbers.”

7: Anki will ask you to locate the file with the cards to import. Select the file named “shared.anki,” then click the Open button.

8: Click the broad Import button.

You should get a confirmation message saying that all the Anki cards for that deck have been imported.

9: Click the Review button to start!

10: If you’re going to import more than one Faroese Anki deck, you’ll want to go back to your Anki folder (located in step 3) and delete the file “shared.anki” and the folder “” You don’t need these anymore, and you will be moving identically named files into the folder when importing the contents of other .zip files. Repeat this process for each Anki deck.

The first time you run through each Anki deck, the flashcards will proceed in the order that I built them. After the first complete runthrough, though, they’ll be randomized… which will make remembering the gender of the nouns more challenging. All of these feature Faroese prompts, and the responses are either English translations or audio pronunciations of the on-screen text. Future decks will prioritize flexible knowledge of the material, prompting with English and expecting the response in Faroese.

Anki also assumes that you’ll initially only want to run through 20 of the cards in a deck. If you get to the end of a deck and without having exhausted all the cards, you can tell Anki to continue reviewing until you reach the end of a particular stack.

And after putting that tutorial together, I’m beat for the evening. I hope this is useful to someone!

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First Post

I’m starting this blog to document my efforts in learning Faroese, language of the Faroe Islands. I hope that it can prove useful to others similarly working to learn this wonderful language. As my skills and resources increase, I’ll also use it as a platform for writing about (and perhaps translating) Faroese poems and literature.

Faroese is the smallest living Germanic language, which means that resources for learning the language are hard to come by. I first started with W. B. Lockwood’s An Introduction to Modern Faroese, which has the advantage of being free. Unfortunately, it’s a scholarly breakdown of Faroese that works as a static document of the language, and it’s not a good resource for beginning to learn Faroese. It’s filled with grammar tables, listing gendered inflections and verb conjugations according to verb classes.

These are exactly the kind of resources that I use when working through Old English grammar, but I can use them for Old English because I’m never going to need to speak the tongue. Since I’ll only encounter that language in a formal setting, the formal format fits. And I’m glad for that. I have this scholarly romanticism, perhaps a kind of sublimated OCD, and that part of me loves arcane catalogs and categories… clear relations, divisions and precisions.

But they don’t cut mustard when it comes to learning a living tongue. For similar resources, mainly digital, there are lengthy entries on Faroese over at Unilang, and Faroese also appears represented on Wiktionary. These are great support tools, and I want to broadcast thanks to everyone who’s put time and energy into their details!

Christmas last year really pulled through for me so, over the past couple of months, I’ve been using Petersen’s and Adams’s Faroese: a Language Course for Beginngers. I’ve had much more success with this book than I’ve had with any other method. (Unfortunately, my copy is incomplete and I lack the workbook.) I recommend that anyone interested in starting down the road to Faroese proficiency begin here. You can order your copy through H. N. Jacobsens Bókahandil.

I had originally intended to use this blog as a practice ground for writing in Faroese, but my skills are not yet at the level needed to even translate my own writing in English into Faroese. Here’s a scrap from an older version of this inaugural post:


Eg eiti James, og eg lesi Føroyskt. Eg fari hetta blog at bøta mín skyns Føroyskt. Ger so væl fyrilátur mín kleyvarskap á mállæru og orðalýsingar. (Eg fagni hjálp!) Eg lesi við Faroese: a Language Course for Beginners (Adams & Petersen).

Eg búgvi í Texas. Eg eri umsetari, skald, og [frívákn?] høvundur. Eg havi einn MA í eingilskum við áherðslu í skaldskapi.

In case anyone reading this who actually speaks and reads Faroese would like to know what this says underneath the (I’m sure) mangled grammar, this is:


My name is James, and I’m studying Faroese. I’m starting this blog to improve my understanding of the language. Please forgive my clumsiness in grammar and vocabulary. (I welcome corrections!) I study with Faroese: a Language Course for Beginners (Adams & Petersen).

I live in Texas, and I am a translator, poet, and freelance writer. I have a Master’s degree in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing and Poetry.

I put that translation together using Young and Clewer’s Faroese-English Dictionary available through Google books in tandem with the Unilang resource linked above, but I decided not to keep that method up. When learning a language using online resources, it can be easy to substitute playing with the language for actual comprehension of it. Even though I’m eager to read and speak Faroese, I think that I’ll learn everything better if I work on reinforcing the vocabulary and grammar that I’ve learned through the textbook, rather than cobble up grammar and vocabulary that I don’t yet have the background to really understand yet.

So that’s where I am: moving forward.

If you’re still reading this far, I ought to introduce myself. I manage a small Japanese-English translation group, through which I’ve had opportunity to work with a handful of major companies in the Japanese videogame and fashion industries, Kojima Productions and VISVIM in particular. We’re currently working on a Very Special Project pro bono, a public domain translation of Segagaga. As a freelance localizer, I’ve been credited on Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and Metal Gear Solid 2: Digital Graphic Novel. My freelance writing has appeared in major US English videogame publications such as Playstation: the Official Magazine,, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

As you might infer from that background, I really like videogames! My favorite series by far is the Metal Gear Solid series, and I play quite a bit of Metal Gear Online on both Japanese and North American servers. My tastes tend toward games with great atmosphere such as ICO, Shadow of the Colossus, Earthbound, and Mother 3. I’m currently playing Demon’s Souls.

I earned my MA in English Literature and Creative Writing (Poetry) from the Center for Writers in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and writing poems is one of my major activities. I helped start the online literary journal Town Creek Poetry, and my poems have appeared in The Southern Poetry Anthology: Volume II as well as the online Journal of Truth and Consequence. My foundational poets are James Wright, James Dickey, Robert Penn Warren, Wendell Berry, W. B. Yeats, and many anonymous Old English poets.

I am often asked “Why Faroese?” This is usually followed by a question if there’s any money in it.

The answer: I don’t know, and that’s not the reason I’m interested in Faroese. I came to Faroese through a love of Old English and Old Norse poetry and prose. The small speaking population immediately aroused my curiosity. After a little research into the history, culture, and ecology of the islands, I was hooked. I realized that this is a place that I want to get to know through its language, literature, and people. The Faroe Islands Podcast, produced by Matt Workman and Tollak, has further stoked my enthusiasm. I hope to be able to visit sometime in the next couple of years.

Beyond that, I’d like to bring my background in poetry and digital media to the work of getting to know the Faroes. I’m especially interested in Faroese poetry. (The Faroe Islands Podcast has a couple of great episodes about Faroese poetry in an interview with American poet Mark Wunderlich. You can listen to part one here and part two here.)

Faroese poetry isn’t easy to access. For example, Google’s auto-fill function always tries to correct a search for “Faroese poetry” as “Famous poetry.” (I’m tempted to view this as deliberate irony.) The only existing anthology of Faroese poetry that I’ve found during my research is George Johnston’s Rocky Shores: an Anthology of Faroese Poetry. It prices, used, starting at about $50, so it’s not exactly an economical resource. I’d like to be able to bring Faroese poetic voices to more people with a lower bar of entry, so that’s definitely one of my broader goals in learning Faroese.

I keep up my Faroese studies daily, so I’ll add to this blog when something noteworthy comes up.

Vit síggjast!

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