1. Farsi or Persian?

The society for Iranian Studies states that the correct term for the language spoken by most Iranians is Persian. Farsi is a Persian word and has no basis in the history of the English language.

2. When Persia became Iran?

As a modern country, Iran was first known by Westerners as “Persia”. Persian or Farsi is taken from the province of Fars in southern Iran. 2,500 years ago, when the present provinces of Iran were kingdoms known in the West as the Persian EmpireThis region is the cradle of the Persian language and civilization. 

In 1935, Reza Shah Pahlavi requested countries with which it had diplomatic relations to call Persia by its native name “Iran”in formal correspondence. Since then, the name Irani or Iranian has come to refer to the civic identity of Iran as a country. Nowadays both terms are common; “Persia” mostly in historical and cultural contexts, “Iran” mostly in political contexts.

The suggestion for the change is said to have come from the Iranian ambassador to Germany, who came under the influence of the Nazis. At the time Germany was in the grip of racial fever and cultivated good relations with nations of “Aryan” blood. It is said that some German friends of the ambassador persuaded him that, as with the advent of Reza Shah, Persia had turned a new leaf in its history and had freed itself from the pernicious influences of Britain and Russia, whose interventions in Persian affairs had practically crippled the country under the Qajars.  

3. Where is Persian Spoken?

Persian, also known as Farsi, is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and it has a long history stretching back thousands of years with different stages along the way. It originated in Sought Western Persia. Today’s Persia is known as Iran. Persian is the official language of Iran and it is also the official languages of Afghanistan and Tajikistan.  In Afghanistan, Persian is referred to as “Dari” for political reason. In Tajikistan, Persian is referred to as “ Tajik” by the Soviet Union conquerers. Historically, the areas where the language is spoken range from the Middle East to India, but today, Persian is understood in parts of Armenia, Azerbaijan, India, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Turkey. There are large groups of Persians who migrated to the Europe, USA and specially Los Angeles. That is the reason that Los Angeles is often referred to as ‘Tehrangeles’. 

Persian, Dari, Tajik are varieties of the one single language. They are mutually intelligible among educated speakers and formal languages are very close. There are some differences in the casual language specially in the accent, vocabulary, spelling and loan words. In Iran, there are more French loan words. In Afghanistan, there are more English loan words and in Tajikistan there are more Russian loan words. 

4. Persian as an Indo-European Language

Persian is in the Indo-European Language (IEL) family and it shares historical origins with most European languages including English as well as the languages of Northern India.  IEL includes , the Romance languages (Spanish, French, Latin, etc.), the Slavic languages (Russian, Polish, etc.), the Germanic languages (English, German, Swedish, etc.), the Celtic languages, Baltic languages, Greek, Armenian, and Albanian. Persian belongs to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European family of language. Iranian branch includes Pashto, Kurdish, Baluchi,Taleshi, Asi. Persian and English are similar in word formation, syntax and phonological rules.

5. How hard is it to learn Persian Language?

Persian language’s level of difficulty can be measured by how long it takes an average learner to reach a certain degree of fluency compared to English. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has created a list to show the approximate time you need to learn a specific language as an English speaker.There are three levels of language difficulty and Persian  falls in category II and is considered as a language with significant linguistic and cultural differences from English Learners. In order to reach the same level as English, Category I languages (French,Spanish)  require learners 600 hours of instruction, category II  languages (Persian, Russian) demand 1100 hours of instruction and category III languages (Arabic, Japanese) require 2200 class hours to reach to Reading and Speaking 3: General Professional Proficiency in Speaking and Reading. 

 Persian is a relatively simple language to grasp grammatically. Nouns have no gender and there are no articles. Persian is a very poetic, soft and song-like language. The stress is generally placed on the last syllable of a word. Persian is a gender free language and the same word is used to describe both ‘he’ and ‘she’ and it is often hard to distinguish whom a person is referring to.  Questioning is fairly simple and is formed by a rise in intonation of the voice at the end of a sentence. The word order doesn’t change. 

6. History of Persian Language 

Persian scripts have evolved over the last 3000 years, with three major historic stages of development. 

Old Persian (525 BCE–300 BCE). The oldest record of old Persian are in inscriptions that dates back to the first Persian empire. These writings are in babylonian cuneiform script  which is one of the oldest writing forms in the world. Old Persian was inscribed in the cuneiform script, on inscriptions, clay tables and seals of the  Achaemenid era in ancient Persia. It was an Indo-European tongue with close affinities with Sanskrit and Avestan; the language of the Zoroastrian sacred texts.

Middle Persian ( 300 BCE- 800 CE ). Middle Persian or Pahlavi (a name derived from Parthavi – that is, Parthian). Old Persian developed into Middle Persian after the fall of the Achaemenians in the province of Pars. Pahlavi was used throughout the Sassanian period. About a hundred Pahlavi texts survived, mostly on religion and all in prose. We can find Middle Persian in religious texts of the Zoroastrian religion from before the Islamic period. The language was referred to as “Parsik” or “Parsig” because it was the language of Parsa people. The Persian language entered a mysterious new stage with the Islamic conquest. The following 200 years was referred to as “Two Centuries of Silence” by Iranian scholars because there is very little literature available from that time period. Persian was affected by Arabic language a lot during this time. 

Classical Persian has roots in Old Persian, Pahlavi and Avesta. The Persian language was in danger of being lost or being replaced with Arabic. The Shahnameh (the Book of kings) is a long epic poem written in classical Persian by Ferdowsi over thirty years at a time when Arabic was the favored language of literature. It was so influential on future of literature and cultural identity that Persian language today remains relatively uncharged from that time. This epic poem is considered as the pillar of the Persian language. Ferdowsi intensionally limited the number of Arabic loan words in his epic poem in order to help to preserve the integrity of the Persian language. Therefore, Ferdowsi is seen as a national Iranian hero who re-ignited pride in Iranian culture and literature, and who established the Persian language as a language of beauty and sophistication. Every country that the Arabs conquered lost its civilization, culture and language and adopted the Arabic language and way of life. Iran broke the trend and preserved its culture and language and even adopted their own version of Islam by creating Shiaism.

During this Persian cultural resurgence, the Persian language and culture impacted a large geographic area and became the official language of Seljuq Empire and Ottoman Empire and spread to Indian subcontinent where it was widely spoken until the arrival of the British.

Modern Persian as spoken today consists of a lot of words of non-Iranian origin. Some modern technical terms, understandably, have been incorporated from English, French and German and are recognizable.  

7. How similar are Persian and Arabic?

Persian and Arabic are not directly related but they have influenced each other. They belong to completely different language families and have separate origins. Arabic is a Semitic language that shares roots with Hebrew while Persian is an Indo-European language that shares the same root with the languages of Northern India as well as most of the languages in Europe such as English, French and German. Persian has simpler grammar compare to Arabic. Persian does not have any grammatical gender. Therefore, they have different grammar system. There are two similarities between the Persian and Arabic which are the script and the vocabulary. Tajik Persian is written in the Cyrillic script while other forms of Persian are written in a modified Arabic script. It is modified because there are four sounds that you cannot find in Arabic language and four new letters were created in Persian. Although during the Islamic conquest Arabic words were adopted but the structure of Arabic words is not adopted and words are not broken down into their roots and templates. The loan words have also adapted to the phonology of the Persian language. 

8. What you already know about Persian?

Persian has left influences on different languages including a heavy influence on the vocabulary of Urdo and some influence on the vocabulary of Turkish. You can find words of Persian origin in languages such as the Malay language in Malaysia and English. Some of the words came directly into English but most of them came indirectly into English via a different language. Due to historical links with Britain, many Persian words have been borrowed and crop up in the English language, such as:

French words relating to science and technology are commonly used in Persian. For example: 

9. Will Persian help me with any other languages?

Persian, is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It has approximately 110 million speakers in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and other countries which historically came under Persian influence. Therefore, learning some Persian will give you access to a rich history of literature and culture that has a big impact on the world It will also assist you in learning Arabic, Kurdish, Urdu and Hindi. Similarities across the languages as a percentage are 90% of the facts, 40% of the words and 30% of the grammar.

10. Do’s and don’ts of Persian language and culture

The Do’s

Say سلام [salām] hello when you enter a place. 

Give tip because tipping is a big part of Persian culture. 

Wear a hijab (headscarf)  on your head everywhere. 

Wear Manto, a longer jacket that reaches to the mid of your legs. 

Respect elderly people.

The Don’ts

Don’t give the thumbs up. It is considered offensive in Iran. Although if someone gives you the thumbs up with a smile, it means they acknowledge your culture.

Don’t try to give kiss or shake hands with opposite sex unless they initiate.

Don’t be uncomfortable when you are treated to a meal by Iranians. Hospitality is part of the Persian culture and it is not an imposition.

Don’t engage in public displays of affection.

Don’t turn your back on anyone and don’t stretch your legs out in front of anyone  but if you do, say  ببخشید , [bebakhsid] , excuse me.

11. What have Persians contributed to the humanity? 

The first Charter of Human Rights: One of the oldest texts, discovered in 6th century BC, is the clay Cyrus cylinder inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform script. The document has been hailed as the first charter of human rights, and in 1971 the United Nations was published translation of it in all the official U.N. languages. The cylinder is currently on display at the British museum. 

The first human civilization: The Persian Civilization (Eilam); was ahead of Egypt by 500 years, of India, by 1,000 years, and of China, by 2,000 years, of Greece by 3,000 years, and of Rome, by 4,000 years! According to Professor Arthur A. Pope, the famous Orientalist (A.H. Saidian, Iran: Land and the people, Tehran 2001 P. 358).

Discovery of Alcohol: Zakariya Razi (865-925 AD), an Iranian pioneer scholar, discovered alcohol and sulfuric acid. He classified substances as plants, organic, and inorganic. The statue of Razi in United Nations Office in Vienna is part of the “Scholars Pavilion” donated by Iran.

Influential Poets such as Rumi, Sa’adi and Hafez: Poetry plays a very important role for Persians and famous quotes and verses from their great poets are recited in everyday life. One of the great Poets is Sa’di (1184 – 1283) and one of his poems is inscribed in the Halls of the United Nations.









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