Learning Persian

To me, Persian is one of the most beautiful languages. I find the intonation, stress and various accents extremely intriguing. Not as romantic as French and Italian of course, there is a certain melody and rhythm to Persian that I just don’t find in other languages, particularly Arabic.

Arabic is, of course, the more ‘useful’ Middle Eastern language to learn, being spoken by around 295 million people, with Persian being spoken by around 110 million. It is spoken in Iran clearly, but also Afghanistan and Tajikistan too. I do however find that Persian is ‘softer’ to the ear than the Arabic language.

The script first of all is incredibly beautiful. The majority of modern Persian is written with an alternative variant of the Arabic alphabet, using different pronunciation and additional letters. Arabic also has various other letters that are not used in Persian.

A more standardised Persian script is used in publications such as magazines and newspapers which all appear on one line. In everyday writing and calligraphy the way the script is presented can be totally different. This particular type of presentation of the Persian script is something that is extremely eye-catching, wonderful and plain glorious in my eyes.

As a native speaker of Persian, I have never really learned or studied the language out of a textbook. I learned it all by speaking to my family and reading Persian at every possible occasion I could, for example, books, newspapers or even road or shop signs. I would frequently write my own letters in Persian to my family members. I have however taken an exam in the language, so I did need to read up on some more formalised grammatical rules, not the everyday, informal or colloquial Persian that I speak with my cousins.

I used the classic Teach Yourself Persian book and CD pack. I thought this was a useful, clear and concise book. Going through every stage of learning the language, from the very basics of writing the script to audio comprehension exercises, it really guides you through a beginner to a more intermediate level. Reading skills are also focused on, which are difficult for foreign learners of Persian to master, especially with the short vowels not being displayed in Modern Persian.

With any language, practise is simply key. To practise your Persian reading skills, start for something quite basic. I am currently reading Alice in Wonderland in Italian as my Italian is very much a beginner standard. Find an equivalent children’s book in Persian. As you advance with your language skills, a news website is always good to read to help you develop your vocabulary.

With regards to speaking, making Persian friends is relatively simple with their typically friendly and welcoming nature. You could do a type of ‘language exchange’ program with an Iranian, where you speak English for one hour and Persian the next.

A good way to practise your learning is to listen to videos online online. Anything and everything that will tune your ear into the speed and accents of the Persian language is important. Find Persian videos on a subject that you enjoy to increase your motivation and interest. You can also build up the listening extracts too from shorter to longer videos when you feel more confident with the language.

In my opinion, bias or no bias, Persian is a glorious language that is a delight to speak and especially to read. If you do study Persian, enjoy everything about the language. The script to me is my favourite part and once you master that, you will really be advancing in your Persian skills. Good luck and enjoy every minute of it!

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