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on 29 April 2013
The content of this book is more or less impeccable and I would recommend it to anyone -whether they Are students or not. It is complete and well structured, including a set of exercises and cultural notes that make it extremely more valuable than any other plain grammar book.
However, typos are quite frequent, the layout is sometimes messy, particularly when the writing is next to a picture, and two words get streched to cover an entire line. Sometimes it's hard to avoid but not impossible, and the frequency of this problem gave me the impression that the publishing was a bit rushed.
Apart from this: you couldn't find anything better, do not esitate.
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on 24 January 2015

If you are fascinated by the Vikings and hanker after reading the sagas in the original Old Norse, but don't have any knowledge of Scandinavian languages, don't panic, because you have English as a starting point, and Professor Jesse L. Byock of the UCLA and the Mosfell Project, Iceland, who will teach you from scratch.

I have a degree in Scandinavian languages, and was taught Old Icelandic, but because I didn't have Latin and German, which gives you quite a few clues, and a head start with the grammar, and also because I had to use rather dry text-books, I was never able to answer any grammar questions correctly in class. But nearly 30 years later, thanks to Professor Byock's stupendous 'Viking Language 1 - Learn Old Norse, Runes, And Icelandic Sagas,' the scales have literally fallen from my eyes!

In his two fabulous books, Professor Byock really brings the Viking language and literature to life, and puts the Vikings into world context.

In 'Viking Language 1,' as well as learning the grammar and vocabulary, you will learn runes, and be able to decipher runic inscriptions, be able to read and translate extracts from Old Norse sagas, and learn about Viking history, archaeology, mythology and culture, right across the Viking "empire".

'Viking Language 2 -The Old Norse Reader,' concentrates on Old Norse literary texts, and can be used alongside 'Viking Language 1,' or as a stand-alone - particularly useful if you already know Old Norse, but would like a flavour of sagas, runes, eddas and skaldic poetry, which will help you decide the direction of your future studies. I'm particularly thrilled to see that 'Njal's Saga' and 'The Tale of Audun from the West Fjords' ('Audun and the Bear') are included. There is a fantastic variety of texts to gorge on. This book has just come out, but I strongly suggest that you snap it up now, as it's bound to be a hit with students of Old Norse!

Both books have useful quick grammar references, there are plenty of exercises/translation practice to increase your knowledge and many illustrations and maps.

I'm excited to get the opportunity to learn about Professor Byock's excavations in Iceland. And how amazing and fascinating to be able to read 'Egil's Saga,' when Professor Byock and his team have been excavating the very homestead of the Mosfell chieftains!

Don't hesitate! Amaze your friends! Amaze yourself! Go for it! And step back in time with 21st century scholarship and teaching..."Skål!" as they say in Sweden.

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Grammars for dead languages often seem as fossilised as the languages themselves, stuck firmly in the 19th century. A quarter of a century ago I obtained E. V. Gordon's An Introduction to Old Norse which consists of reading passages and at the back of the book a "grammar" consisting of not much more than lists of noun paradigms and so on, and needing a degree in linguistics before you even know the terminology which is thrown in without explanation.

Jesse Byock brings learning Old Norse into the 21st century. Reading passages are relatively short and progressively graded, and vocabulary building is chosen to give the reader the most common words to be found in the Old Norse sagas. Rather than masses of paradigm and conjugation tables hurled at the reader at the beginning, they are introduced in stages. Linguistic necessities are explained, so for example when older grammars may speak of "i-umlaut" without further description leading to a "WTF?" reaction from most people, Byock with great clarity takes the reader through the mechanics of front/back and close/open vowels and a full explanation of the cause of mutation.

Linguistic pre-requisites are so minimal that he even explains fundamentals such as nouns, verbs, adjectives and so on. This does mean for someone like me that there is a fair amount of fluff to get through before "real" content, but on the other hand it means that Byock has written a book which makes learning Old Norse and gaining access to the sagas in the original a goal attainable by everyone. Exercises for the student are also pitched at a level which should give anyone confidence in being able to make progress.

In addition to the language itself, there are sizeable sections in each chapter with historical and cultural background. As another reviewer noted, there are some layout oddities, but overall it's a difficult book to fault.

Volume 2 does not appear to be available at the time of writing, but there are two MP3s with readings - Viking Language 1: Audio Lessons 1-8 (Pronounce Old Norse, Runes and Icelandic Sagas) and Viking Language 1: Audio Lessons 9-15 (Pronounce Old Norse, Runes, And Icelandic Sagas).

EDIT: Volume 2, which is apparently a reader rather than a grammar/exercise continuation, is now forthcoming: Viking Language 2: The Old Norse Reader.
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on 12 April 2014
I bought this book only a couple of weeks ago and I am now well through lesson 4 (out of 15). The structure of the book makes it really easy to learn Old Norse. Relevant vocabulary and grammar are introduced with each lesson and learning is reinforced with exercises. Passages in English give details of the relevant historical background to each of the reading passages. Without indulging in levity, it is a refreshing change from the dry old books of grammar that preceded it. I can thoroughly recommend it!
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on 3 January 2016
Previous attempts to learn Old Norse ended in abject failure lost in impenetrable grammars with pages of exceptions to the rules - classic examples of not being able to see the wood for the trees. Even an attempt to get in via modern Icelandic failed. At long last though, thanks to this book, I am actually making progress.

Professor Byock makes the language come alive. He uses original texts right from the beginning and puts them into their cultural context with historical explanations. The necessary grammar is introduced gradually and always explained in a way that elucidates rather then confuses. Spelling changes due to i and u umlauts? Got them! And, at the same time understanding of some of the variations in noun declensions and changes in spelling of some verbs,

I am only just under half way through the first book but it is so encouraging to read sagas and already be able to pick out and translate (some) names as well as looking at runic inscriptions and being able to read and partially understand them - even if it is only the odd word here and there.

A great book, well written and worth every penny if you are interested in th language and/or the history and would like to read the primary sources. Very much look forward to getting onto book two but there is no hurry because book one is a pleasure.
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on 19 April 2014
Excellent. Cannot fault it. Having been learning Icelandic for a while I was interested in what came before. Really good exercises and well laid out.
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on 6 May 2015
Brilliant self-teaching book. Absolutely invaluable to anyone wishing to learn the language of the sagas and to interpret the runic writing system..
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on 19 August 2015
This is a really accessible course for learning Old Norse on one's own. In 15 lessons it gives a comprehensive grammar with exercises and readings from Old Norse sources as well as providing an insight into Viking history and cultural matters. It also teaches how to read the runic script, with transcriptions and translations of many Scandinavian runestones. It includes a grammar summary, pronunciation guide, vocabulary and a list of the 246 most frequent words in the sagas.
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on 26 January 2015
This book is so good, it really broke everything down for me and helped me take the language in better. The mini exercises in each chapter are perfect. I can't wait to get book 2!
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on 6 February 2015
My boyfriend loves this book. You do need to download the answers for the exercises from elsewhere as they aren't included in this or any other textbook.
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