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Confused about whether you should be learning Persian or Farsi? You’ve come to the right place. Persian is the language of Persia, which is a place that hasn’t officially existed for at least 80 years. What was previously known as Persia is now modern-day Iran, but the rest of the world still refers to the spoken language of the regions that encompass the former Persian Empire as Persian. The Persian language is known as Farsi (فارسی) to native speakers in Iran, Dari (دری) in Afghanistan, and Tajik (тоҷикӣ) in Tajikistan. There are approximately 110 million Persian speakers worldwide, and Persian is an official language in Iran, a co-official language in Afghanistan alongside Pashto, and the official language of Tajikistan.
The Farsi language is written right to left using the Persian alphabet, which was modified from Arabic script. There are a significant number of borrowed Persian language words that come from Arabic, and the language has undergone several major changes over the last few centuries. Academics classify the Persian language into three separate periods— Old Persian, Middle Persian, and New Persian. Many important Persian works of literature and poetry date back to the era of old and middle Persian, including those of the famous mystic Rūmī, whose 13th-century couplets had a profound influence on the Muslim world.
With over twenty-five years of building successful language learning programs, Rosetta Stone sees learning Persian as a journey. Speaking Farsi in real-world conversations that don’t follow a script requires learners to understand the language, not just the words. That’s why Farsi lessons from Rosetta Stone focus on providing an immersive learning environment that creates connections and stimulates deeper learning.
Learning Persian for Beginners
One of the first questions language learners often ask is if speaking Farsi is difficult?. Like any language, Persian has similarities to other languages that make it approachable and familiar, but it also has differences that can be a challenge for English speakers. There are some phonemes or sounds in Persian, like [x] /خ/ and [Ɣ] /ق/, that don’t exist in English. Furthermore, the grammatical structure of Persian is typically subject-object-verb which can be an adjustment for those who are not native speakers. However, there are also some particulars of the Persian language that can make it simpler for language learners. For instance, there is no gender in Persian, and if you know some Arabic, the script and a large portion of the vocabulary will be familiar. Persian also borrows quite a few modern terms, especially those that refer to technology, from English.
One of the first thing beginners often tackle is the Persian alphabet, which is case-free and has 32 letters. These letters are often broken down into smaller groups that make learning Persian more manageable, and you’ll discover that some of the sounds are redundant. While familiarity with the script and basic sounds of Farsi is necessary to learn the language, don’t get stuck on the script. The most important part is to get a feel for the sounds and cadence of the language, as well as the context in which certain words are used.
That’s why Rosetta Stone offers bite-sized Farsi lessons that introduce you to common Persian language words and conversational phrases you might need in the context of real-world situations. This method, referred to as Dynamic Immersion®, allows learners to build upon vocabulary they already know and scale gradually towards more complex concepts. The emphasis is always on understanding and being understood by native Farsi speakers, not on memorizing a long vocabulary list of Persian words.
Learn Farsi Pronunciation
Pronunciation is a vital component of any successful language learning program. If the goal is to understand and be understood by other native Farsi speakers then it is much more important to speak and understand the Persian language in conversations than it is to memorize vocabulary lists. Focusing on the pronunciation of Farsi words will help you to get confident with everyday situations that don’t follow a script.
Persian is an intonational language, meaning that the rise and fall of your voice or the pitch can determine meaning. There are four pitches in Farsi: high pitch for new information, low pitch for information already given, low followed by high pitch to indicate contrast, and another variation of low and high pitches that expresses doubt. There are also two major intonation patterns in Persian and, like English, the rise and fall of tones in a sentence can help you determine the difference between a question and a statement. However, unlike English, Persian is a syllable-timed language, and English speakers may have trouble adjusting at first to the natural rhythm of Farsi.
Rosetta Stone believes practicing pronunciation is the cornerstone to building confidence as a speaker of any language. That’s why our Farsi lessons incorporate practicing Persian pronunciations into every lesson with a patented speech recognition engine called TruAccent®. When you repeat words out loud in your Farsi lessons with Rosetta Stone, you’ll get real-time feedback that compares your accent to that of thousands of native speakers, allowing language learners to perfect pronunciation before moving onto the next lesson.
Learn how to say "Could you recommend a restaurant?" from a native Farsi speaker.
The Best Way to Learn Persian Language Words
Once you feel comfortable with Farsi pronunciation, the next stop in your language journey should be to learn both Persian language words and the commonly used phrases that are the building blocks of everyday conversations. However, the best way to create connections to the Persian language is not to focus on vocabulary acquisition but to commit to making language learning part of your daily schedule.
Here are a few other ways you can accelerate your ability to speak the Farsi language with confidence.
1. Learn Persian words in context
The key to learning any language is to know not only the words but the context in which those words should be used. Rosetta Stone lets learners acquire new vocabulary by reading Stories, a feature that allows you to follow along with stories told by native speakers, but we also encourage learning these same words in the context of the more immersive learning environment that makes our dynamic, bite-sized Farsi lessons so effective.
2. Focus on Farsi pronunciation
Before you move onto the next lesson, make sure you feel very comfortable with the Persian pronunciations you’ve practiced. Because Rosetta Stone lessons provide real-time feedback on your accent, you’ll get a chance to correct and refine your approach until even native Farsi speakers might confuse you for a local. This method is essential to build the confidence to speak up for yourself when faced with real-world conversations that don’t follow a script.
3. Ignore Persian script for now
Speaking of scripts, don’t get bogged down in the Persian script used for writing. It’s much more important to speak the language, especially for beginners. If you’re already familiar with Arabic script, it may not be a struggle to tackle the nuances of Persian, but if you’re a beginner, it’s advised to simply master the basic sounds and then circle back to becoming an accomplished reader of Persian later.
4. Speak Farsi daily
Practice makes perfect, and Persian is no exception to that mantra. If you want to sound like a local, you’ll need to commit to speaking Farsi out loud every day until it becomes natural and familiar. Even just a few minutes of language learning practice tucked into the corners of your daily schedule can make a big difference in how quickly you progress. Rosetta Stone makes this easy with language learning that syncs across devices so you can learn Persian anytime and anywhere.
Immerse Yourself in the Farsi Language
In addition to learning language in an immersive environment with contextualized lessons, it’s also important to get as much exposure to the Persian language as possible. Merely hearing the language as part of your daily routine, whether it’s taking advantage of features like Rosetta Stone Stories in Farsi or chatting with other language learners as part of our online community, can help you flourish into a confident speaker.
Get familiar with Persian literature and poetry
Literature, and specifically poetry is a cornerstone of Persian culture. Iranian society encourages artistic expression, and certain regions are famous for poetry and music while other cities like Tehran have thriving literary circles. While you may not be able to read some of the more notable works of literature from middle Persian just yet, you can begin with popular children’s stories and folktales.
Watch Persian movies, TV, and news
As the accessibility of streaming services grows, so does the content in other languages. Iranian filmmakers have been producing incredible documentaries and classic films in the past few decades that are definitely worth seeking out. There are also several news and TV sources in Iranian you may be able to subscribe to, including Farsi versions of the BBC.
Connect with an Iranian community
If you leave near a major American city, chances are there is a community of Iranian Americans and immigrants nearby. Persian culture is alive and well in these clusters, and you may be able to find some folks who will happily speak Farsi with you. You can tour restaurants in Iranian neighborhoods, go to markets, and engage with the thriving pockets of Persian culture that have profoundly influenced communities like Los Angeles, New York, and Washington DC.
Advantages to Learning the Persian Language
Learning a second language has many benefits, both professionally and personally. Choosing Farsi may be a particularly good fit for you if you’re planning travel to the region or encounter Iranian culture as part of your business. Every language learner’s journey is different, but the satisfaction and rewards of knowing how to engage and have conversations with native Persian speakers are the same.
Here are a few other reasons why learning the Persian language can be an asset.
Learn more about Iranian culture
Knowing how to speak Persian opens the door to Iranian culture, which is essential for those who work in the Middle East or who are immersed in studies of Islam or other religions.
Knowing Persian can help you learn other languages
Learning Farsi vocabulary does provide a bit of a kickstart toward learning other languages, specifically Arabic and Urdu. Linguists estimate as many as a quarter of Persian vocabulary derives from Arabic, and you’ll see some overlap with borrowed words from Turkish and Urdu.
Speaking Farsi is vital for travel in Iran
A majority of Iranians speak Farsi as their native language and outside of the major cities like Tehran, you won’t find many people who speak English. Knowing the Persian language will help facilitate a better travel experience not only in Iran but also in Afghanistan.
Try Our Award-Winning App
Surround yourself with Persian whenever, wherever with the Rosetta Stone app.
Download a unit and knock it out on the train or a flight. Select a 5-10 minute lesson and sneak it in while you wait in line or for your ride to show up. And explore dynamic features, like Seek and Speak, where you can point at an object in the real world and get a translation.
The best part? You don’t have to choose between app or desktop. Both come with your subscription and sync, so you can switch between devices seamlessly.