Life in Iran: Persian Language and Culture

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Trusted Translation and Localization Solutions

Life in Iran: Persian Language and Culture


Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is also known as the Persia. The country stands in the fields of Western Asia and has been home to many ancient civilizations throughout its history. Many cultures, religions and ideologies graced Iran’s lands and history, from the Arabs to the Hellenistic civilizations. When thinking of Iran, first comes to mind is mystery. The culture of the country has a mysterious effect that makes us feel like it is holding the greatest secret of the entire universe. The country offers you and experience like you are chasing a mystical road like the Alchemist in Paulo Coelho’s novel. Before we start to talk more in detail about the language and culture of the country, let us throw some more general knowledge about Iran. Iran’s capital city is Tehran, which is also the economic and cultural center of the country. It is one of the most populous Middle Eastern cities with over 8.7 million residents. The total population of the country hits over 83 million and makes it one the most crowded cities in the Middle East. The country is bordered by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey and Iraq. Along with the many neighbors of Iran, the coast of Iran meets with the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Official language of Iran is called Persian or Farsi language, which are not spoken only in Iran; but also in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The main religion is Islam; but one of the most interesting religious beliefs Zoroastrianism is also being practised by many people in Iran. Iran has important oil and natural gas resources; therefore its economy mostly depends on the exportation of these resources along with agriculture, pharmaceutical sector, biotechnology and nanotechnology. Apart from Tehran, other important cities of Iran can be listed as Mashhad, Isfahan, Tabriz, Shiraz, Hamedan and Karaj. The official currency of the Islamic Republic of Iran is Rial (IRR).

Now, moving on to the more entertaining part, let us discover some more detail about Iran. What is Iran known for, for example? What comes to mind when we think of Iran? As mentioned before, Iran has a mystical vibe that makes you want to discover and unravel the hidden mysteries of these lands. Other than the feelings, we can talk about some more material things. The great architectural ancient landmarks, for instance. You will come across some of the most magical ancient buildings that are bearing the glory of the past, while discovering the country. Famous Iranian carpets and rugs with exquisite hand-woven details definitely deserve a big shoutout, as they all whisper another story from the culture of these lands. As Farsi language, the Persian language is very melodic, it gave birth to some of the greatest poems of the world with worldwide famous poets like Ferdowsi, Omar Khayyam and Rumi. Iranian food is also very well-known with a special ingredient saffron. Let us now move on to learn more about the Farsi language, also known as the Persian language.         

Farsi Language and Dialects 

Farsi is the official Iranian language; it is also called Persian. In fact, Persian can be considered as the English translation of the Farsi language. They are basically the same language; just called with different names. What are the other Farsi or Persian language speaking countries other than Iran? There are some like Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Each call the language with a distinct name. For example, we see Farsi called as Dari in Afghanistan, or Tajik in Tajikistan. Even though they call the language with different names, they are all speaking the same Persian language with some mild distinctions. Before diving into the dialects, let us mention the Farsi speaking population throughout the world? How many people speak Persian? While native speakers exceed over 70 million, the total number of Persian speaking population is over 110 million around the world.

Iran’s official language Farsi or Persian is classified under the Indo-European language family. It has acquired many vocabulary and qualifications from the various cultures it has interacted with. From Turkish to Arabic, or from ancient Hellenistic period, Farsi language is one the richest languages of the world. The Persian language has many similarities with Kurdish language, which is also a commonly spoken language in Iran.

The Iranian language has some dialects like every other language. It is mainly divided into three varieties. Let us briefly mention them all. First of all, the Iranian Persian that is the most common one spoken in Iran and Iraq. The Eastern Persian is spoken in Afghanistan, and as we mentioned before they call the language Dari. In Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the dialect Tajiki is used. Other than the main dialects, there are some minor varieties like Luri, Achomi, Tat or Judeo-Tat that are used by smaller groups.

The Farsi alphabet is a derivation and modification of Arabic alphabet, therefore it is not as familiar as the Latin alphabet letters that are mostly used by the greater populations nowadays. It is rather a difficult path to learn Persian, but is an enjoyable and fancy one thinking of all the great literature to be read from the original sources. 

The Origins of Farsi Language

The history of Farsi language is divided into three periods: The Old Persian, the Middle Persian and the New Persian. Some of the oldest Iranian language examples were found in ancient Zoroastrian texts. The Old Persian developed and acquired some grammatical advancements and was influenced by the many civilizations it encountered with and the Middle Persian was born. Some inscriptions and texts have survived until this date. Even though the language evolved since then, it is still understandable and intelligible to today’s modern Persian language. With the effect of neighbor countries’ languages along with the need for more vocabulary to define the more modern needs, the Persian or Farsi language took the newest form and the Modern Persian was born. Today, the latest version of the New Persian is spoken by over 110 million people around the world.

How many people speak Persian language?

Let’s talk about how many people speak Farsi language around the world today. The official Iranian language Farsi or mostly known as Persian in the western word, is one of the most commonly spoken language in Middle Eastern part of the world. It is not only the official language of the Islamic Republic of Iran; but also spoken in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, some parts of Iraq, etc… Even though the number of native speakers of Persian is about 70 million, in total the Farsi speaking population is over 110 million all around the world.

How does Persian Sound Like? 

If you are a native speaker of European languages and have no experience with Middle Eastern languages, Farsi is definitely not very familiar to you. You will probably find no parallelism between a word in your language and Persian. As a matter fact, you will probably not be able to understand what is written as it is a completely different alphabet. The alphabet is a derivation of the Arabic alphabet and it is no similar to the modern Latin letters.

But, how does Farsi sound like? You may have heard many Farsi poems or watched some examples of Iranian cinema. Even though you may have no familiarity, you can still appreciate how harmonic and melodic the Farsi language is. It slides like a song and sounds very pleasant to the ear with the gentlest intonations and soft words. It may sound a bit like Arabic; but it is much softer and gentler. The pronunciation may be a bit difficult to perform for the speakers of the western languages, but the Farsi is a very artistic and aesthetic language.

Is Persian language similar to Arabic?

As their alphabets looks very similar, the languages of Arabs and Farsi or Persian are mostly thought as the same language. Well, they are not. First of all, they do not even belong the same language family. Yes, this may not mean a lot, but their alphabets are also not the same. The Persian language’s alphabet may be a derivation of the Arabic language; however it is not exactly the same. It has more letters and a completely different vocabulary. This is a proof that, looks are not everything. Even though the alphabets may look similar, the Arabic and the Farsi languages has very little in common; they are definitely not very similar languages.

Where is Persian language is spoken?

The Farsi language, that is also known as Persian by greater audiences, is the official language of the country Iran. However, it is not only spoken in this country; but also in Afghanistan with the Dari and in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan with the name Tajik. It is also spoken in some parts of Iraq and many other minor Middle Eastern regions. Natively spoken by over 70 million, the worldwide Farsi speaking population is over 110 million on this date.

Is Farsi hard to learn?

Without much argument and hesitation, learning Farsi is no piece of cake. But why? Let us find out together. First of all, you are learning a brand new alphabet. It is like the Arabic alphabet, that has nothing in common with the Latin letters that we mostly use today. Without learning the alphabet and how to bind the letters to each other to make the words, you will not be able to understand anything. Nothing is like anything you learnt before. You cannot relate to anything, you are a total stranger in that sense. If you are familiar with the Kurdish or Balochi languages, you are somehow lucky. You may relate to some words.

We said learning the Persian language will be a difficult road. To be honest, it is one of the most difficult languages to learn. Learning a whole new different and strange alphabet, how the letters sound like, how they are being combined to make words, what the words stand for, how they are pronounced in different parts of the sentence. How will you manage the intonation? There are a lot to learn, that is for sure. But it is a great adventure to learn language from the scratch. Especially when you are dealing with one of the richest and most artistic languages of the worlds. You are opening a clean page and building up on it. You will feel great and experience the sweet  taste of achievement as time goes by and you keep developing your skills. You will need a lot of practice, effort and motivation. That is a must for every journey. But there is no reason not to achieve your goal. It is so rewarding, seeing yourself succeeding in something that you know you put a lot of effort. So it is no secret, learning Farsi is no piece of cake; it is though but very rewarding. It will open you new doors to a brand new culture. The more sweat you put on your work, the greater the results will be.

Which languages are similar to Farsi language?

The Iranian language Farsi, or more commonly known as the Persian, is not very similar to a lot of languages. It is a unique language to learn; most probably with no familiarity to your mother tongue. However it has some similarities with some other languages like Kurdish or Balochi languages. If you are familiar with one of these languages, you are more likely to learn the Farsi language more easily.

What are the best ways to learn Persian?

Learning a new language is always a challenge, you are building something from scratch. Especially if you are learning Farsi, or Persian, which is the more commonly known name, it is a huge challenge indeed. But with some patience and a few tricks, you can even make learning Persian easier.

First, there is the Iranian alphabet issue. You are going to learn a brand new alphabet that you probably are not familiar with at all. You must dedicate a great deal of time to learn the Farsi letters, learn how to combine them. Plus, you need to listen everything you can find, you need to be in full motivation and surround yourself with Persian stuff everywhere. By listening, you will get to familiarize yourself with the unique sounds and intonation of the Iranians language. You may start to relate to some Farsi words. Like every other language, you need to work on your vocabulary, this is the key to conquer the language. Maybe some flashcards would help you memorize the Persian characters better. Work with the flashcards, repeat the Farsi words you learn, start from the beginning when you make mistakes. As the time goes by, you will see how much you improved yourself. Once you get familiar with the Iranians writing system, read a lot. Read the news, books, advertisements… You do not have to understand every single word; but you can understand the context and guess the meanings of unknown words. Last but now least, speak, speak, speak! You may not master the intonation or the pronunciation in the beginning, it is rather hard. But you will get better everyday, you should not give up. On the contrary, you should keep going and enjoy the ride. As you see you are improving continuously, it will give you more and more self-confidence. The only thing you need to do is to decide and start without losing time. You will thank yourself a few months later.

Benefits of learning Farsi for foreigners

In the age of technology, things became so much easier. We are spending less time for daily or business activities because there is a machine or a program to do these for us. Businesses or travels between countries became so much less time-consuming and very, very common. The world became a one big country. We are not only in connection with our families, co-workers, relatives or citizens of our country; but also with the whole world. It became so easy to communicate with people from abroad, make business with them or just visit a friend who lives in another country. Thanks to all the advancements, acquiring information has also become so much easier. International businesses became very common which allowed us to work with companies in other countries. Furthermore, we can even move to another country for working. So, here is a question: what are the benefits of learning Farsi for a non-Iranian person?

First of all, would not it be cool to have many friends from many different cultures? A bit of socializing never hurts anybody. Making an Iranian friend would be so great to learn a brand new culture. It not only lets you broaden your perspective and get acquainted with an unknown culture; but provides you with a great general knowledge to impress your friends.

You may want to work with an Iranian company. It is not compulsory to know their language of course, most people know English these days. However, it would definitely be beneficial for the business affairs. People appreciate familiarity and tend to be more involved with people they have some things in common. So, knowing the language and the culture of Iran would be great for your business life. We are not even mentioning how great it would be for your own sake, as it is one of the richest cultures on the face of earth.

Another option is that, you may move to Iran for work. It is a fact that a lot of people speak English; but there is also a chance some people you will meet along the way cannot. Why lose them, right? Moreover, it is always better to have a deep knowledge about the culture of a country while working there. Something that is completely normal in your culture may be totally unacceptable in Iran. And believe us, in Iran you will come across some of these things. To avoid those kind of unpleasant situations, knowing the language and culture would be a great asset. Assume that you are a professional translator and you will translate some official documents in Iranian language. Translation is not directly writing down the exact meaning of a word. It requires understanding the context. The words gain meaning in the sentence they are used. They earn meaning in the context. So, in Iran people may know Farsi language very well obviously; but they may not be as qualified as you to translate files, localize websites or build bridges between two languages with words. Knowing a language does not mean to be qualified to perform these professional works. Cross-cultural jobs are very much common now; yet there are limited qualified people to be hired for these jobs. You can make yourself stand out with your professional skills reinforced by your knowledge of Persian language.

Life in Iran

Iran is one of the most crowded countries of the Middle East with a rich history, culture and religions like Islam, Zoroastrianism and Christianity. They all live together in harmony, which makes the culture of the country even more enjoyable. Iranian people value the importance of family life and they have so much respect for the elderly. The country mostly consists of the working middle class families.

In daily Iranian conversations, Farsi idioms, Persian sayings and the general sentences mostly depend on what they value the most: The God. They speak of God’s name very frequently and they also give reference to some of the religious stories that is written in the holy book.  They say "Khodâ vakili” that means God is my attorney, God knows that I am rightful. Or they reference to the sacrifice incident in Quran and they use the sentence “I would sacrifice myself for you”, “Ghorbānat beram” to their loved ones. This is like the biggest act of love, showing they love the person more than themselves. Persian language has many specific idioms to use in daily life, even they are great reasons to start learning this magical language.

There are some unique beliefs and superstitions in Iran, that you may find interesting. So, maybe it is a good idea to include a couple of them here. For example, if you are hearing an owl hoot in the evening, that is seen as a sign that will bring bad news in short notice. You may have seen an evil eye, it is like an eye inside a blue surrounding. The evil eye is believed to be keeping away the bad energy and bad spirits. And when you are sitting in somewhere, you cannot turn your back to someone. If you somehow do it by accident, you need to apologize. Because this is considered as a very disrespectful action and it is not handled pleasantly in Iran. People may resent you for that.

When speaking of Iranian culture, we cannot miss the chance to talk about the Iranian New Year, also known as the Nowruz. It is celebrated on 21 March every year and offers some of the greatest celebration scenes. The celebrations take place at night, people start using fireworks and jump over the bonfires. All the fire-related celebrates may probably root back to the Zoroastrian religion.

Climate of Iran

Iran combines the hotness of the Arabian deserts and the mild Mediterranean climate on its lands. This makes the climate of Iran very dry and hot in summer and very cold in winter. Sometimes, the temperatures between day and night may change drastically. So, you need to be prepared for every type of weather conditions. You can never know what will you see that day.

Farsi People

As mentioned before, Iranian people are religious, they are punctual and they respect the elder people very much. They may now be the easiest people to communicate; however, when they like you and accept you, it is for sure that you will be like a sister or brother to them. Family and friends are everything to them, they trust the people they love with their lives. Their language is very soft and melodic. They do not speak loudly, they speak softly and calmly. So, living with Iranian people, working with them does not require a lot of effort. Just use your potential in your work, practice some small talk and respect the people and their beliefs. Then you are good to go, there is nothing in your way.

Jobs for English Speakers in Iran 

As mentioned in the beginning of this article, Iranian economy mostly depends on the exportation of the products like plastic products, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and nanotechnology along with agricultural products. When you learn the native language, you always have chance to land a great job in the biggest companies working between your homeland and Iran. It is always a great idea to work in a company that gives you opportunity to work with your home country. You will have a command of both cultures that will make you do great jobs interculturally.

Many opportunities come ahead when you improve yourself no matter what comes in your way. One thing is for sure, hard work always pays off. You will get great results as a compensation of your efforts. The advantages of learning Persian mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg, opportunities are limitless when you are ready to take a step forward. Before you move to Iran, you may need a professional Persian translator to help you translate official documents into Farsi. Here at Persian translation agency, we provide online Persian translations for our clients from all around the world. You may contact us 24/7 for a Farsi translation quote!