It is possible to be addicted to language learning. I know, because I have all the symptoms. When I have an essay due for my IB HL English class, or a test in calculus the next day, when I am crumpling under academic stress, when I tell myself I am going to finish my homework first, I still can’t resist the urge to make one more Quizlet set or study another vocab list.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a bad student. But, unlike those who put off their homework because of Snapchat, my procrastination is motivated by my New Year’s Resolution and latest obsession… Farsi (also known as Persian).
In today’s post, I wanted to write about taking up Farsi, why I chose the language, and how I am studying it.
Iranians know how to rap. I discovered Persian rap in my Youtube suggestions one day as an unsuspecting ninth grader. Before I knew it, I had a new favorite musical artist: Yas. Although I didn’t understand any of his music, save for a few Urdu cognates, I sought translations of his songs on the Internet. The lyrics, which dealt with sociopolitical issues in Iranian society, were really empowering. Over time, I started to listen to a range of other Persian rappers, as well as some Dari (Afghan dialect of Farsi) pop artists. Little did I know that my love for Iranian “underground” hip hop would serve as fuel for a future linguistic pursuit.
Knowing Farsi would help me teach better. As a tutor for refugee children, the majority of my students speak either Arabic or Farsi. At the tutoring center this year, all of the Arabic speaking students have generally been more advanced in English, while the beginners have been Farsi or Pashto speakers from Afghanistan. In other words, I lack the skills to address the language barrier which I face regularly. Learning Farsi would help me work with the students, and better address their needs.
This was my first time making a real New Year’s Resolution. Aside from a cheesy poster I had to make for a second grade school project– I remember vividly the lies I had written– I have never actually made a meaningful New Year’s Resolution. This year, however, rather than making a superficial goal, my 2018 resolution was no farce– it was Farsi. And look, we’re four months in and I’m going strong!
As of right now, my studies have been informal. I’m a big proponent of free online language resources, and for now, my studies have been very casual and self-paced. For vocabulary, I’ve been using the beginner resources provided by the Persian Language Foundation, as well as the vocab lists on the University of Texas at Austin’s online Persian site. As for grammar, I found a website called easypersian.com (how fitting!), which walks the readers through step-by-step guides on conjugations and syntax. As someone who adores Wikipedia– I can and someday will write a blogpost about this– I found a series on Wikibooks which has 20 Persian lessons! All of the resources are free and online, and so far(si), I have been really loving them!
I am learning… slowly. With school alone, my schedule is incredibly busy. To add to this, my extracurriculars and Arabic studies mean that time is my most precious commodity. In other words, although I try to take out time each day to learn some more, my learning is slow. Between classes (or sometimes in classes), at lunch, and any other spare time is spent studying my Farsi Quizlet sets or making new ones. My current repertoire consists of basic self-introductions and greetings, as well as simple past tense conjugations. Hopefully that will grow soon!
Hindi/Urdu and Arabic make my life so much easier. As I have realized, there are so many connections between Hindi/Urdu, Arabic, and Farsi. Farsi borrows the Arabic script, and although handwritten Farsi has some strange slants that I’m not used to, I can definitely read it, as there are only four additional letters that are not present in Arabic. Furthermore, many Farsi words come from Arabic, which means that I have many cognates to rely on. Seeing as Farsi essentially gave way to Urdu/Hindi, my native language, there are several words that I can easily recognize. To add to that, Urdu and Farsi sentence structure is nearly parallel, so I don’t have to adjust to new syntax. The only drawback of speaking Urdu and Arabic is that I am tempted to pronounce loanwords the way they are said in their respective languages; however, as I have learnt, Farsi pronunciation is very different.
My Farsi studies have a bright future (hopefully!). I hope to study Farsi in addition to Arabic (and International Relations and Political Science) at my dream school, the University of Texas at Austin, so I have a big motivation to gain an introduction to the language beforehand. For the past year, after my summer in Jordan, I have been formally studying Arabic (Levantine dialect) with a Skype tutor on a program called Preply. This summer, I hope to find a Farsi tutor on the same platform and formalize my learning. It would be awesome to work on both conversational Arabic and Farsi simultaneously!
Well, that’s it for now, as my homework is calling me. Actually, I should be honest. I’ll do my homework tomorrow, but I’ll spend today doing some more Farsi lessons. 🙂