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, 1up.com, 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.