Persian language which belongs to the Indo-European family of languages reflects part of the world's history over the past 3000 years. About half of this period forms the ancient history of Iran, the languages of which are called Old Persian and Middle Persian. The other half of Iran’s history is the Islamic period, the language of which is called New Persian or Persian.
In antiquity, Iranian governments established a great civilization in the East based on religion, science, art, architecture and governance practices. Also, by accepting Islam, Iranians tried sincerely to establish the foundation of Islamic sciences, both religious and non-religious. Part of their scientific and cultural heritage was translated from Iranian languages into Arabic in the early centuries of the Islamic period, and Iranian scientists, along with scholars from other Muslim states, founded the supreme Islamic civilization. For centuries, works of Iranian scientists, particularly Avicenna, Razi, KhajehNasir and Kharazmi, who often wrote in Arabic, were taught in scientific centres of the West.
During this long period, Iranians were repeatedly attacked by different peoples and experienced centuries of foreign domination. However, by virtue of their culture and civilization, which originated from national and Iranian-Islamic cultural values, they have maintained their unity and independence. In this regard, the Persian language is considered to be the reason behind Iran's national unity and identity of Iranians and interest in it is one of their main characteristics. It should be emphasized that Iran's civilization has continuously influenced other civilizations and vice versa.
Explaining the history of Iran, Roman Ghirshman, the French archaeologist, wrote "There remains only a memory of most ancient peoples; however, Iran has stood like a mountain after centuries and millenniums". Richard Frye, the American scholar, stated that Iran is like a cypress tree, which bends in the storm but does not break. He also stated that there are few nations in the world that have such a remarkable history.
With the advent of Islam in Iran, Persian language has been intermixed with Arabic words and the rich content of Islamic culture. Islam entered Iran with Arabic language and spread through South and East Asia, North Africa and Central Asia with the help of Iranian Muslims and the Persian language. Thus, Persian language is considered to be the second language of the Islamic world.
Persian literature, which is a great achievement of the Islamic period of Iran, is considered as a school of humanization and a treasure of epics, ethics, mysticism and spirituality, love and affection, peace and friendship, as well as social life etiquettes. These excellent themes were expressed by Iranian Persian-speaking poets and writers with a global reputation, among whom Hafez, Omar Khayyam, Sa’di, Ferdowsi and Rumi have gained huge prominence. Persian language and literature enjoys abundant attractions and has fascinated enthusiastic literature lovers all over the world:
Goethe, the famous poet and pillar of western literature, venerated Hafez. He recognized Hafez as the divine fragrance of the East and the invigorating breeze of eternity, and described his words as the true miracle of human talent and art and the source of blessings in perfection, beauty, wisdom and mysticism.
The simple, sweet and short ruba'iyyat of Omar Khayyam, who is counted among the great thinkers, astronomers and mathematicians, has been translated into most languages of the world and penetrated the hearts of all literature loving nations. Arthur Arberry described the Iranian ruba'ee as the finest delicate example of poetry in all literatures of the world and emphasized that the most famous translation published after the Bible is Khayyam's ruba'iyyat.
Sa’di, the master of Persian language in prose and poetry, is the poet of love, life, morals and wisdom. Ralph Emerson classified "Golestan" of Sa’di, in the same category as the Bible and other celestial scriptures. Sa’di’s poem, "Sons of Adam", bears the most beautiful message of humanity to the world:
Sons of Adam are members of one,
In creation of one essence and soul,
If one person is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain
Ferdowsi is the most famous epic poet of Iran, who put the national history of Iranians into poetry and created the immortal epic of "Shahnameh". Edward Brown recognized him not only as the greatest poet of his time, but also one of the greatest poets of all time.
Rumi is the most famous poet of mystical literature. Edward Brown described him as the most prominent poet in Iranian Sufism, and his excellent work, Masnavi, as a coequal with other great poems of the world.
Persian language and literature has influenced a vast area in the East and has created a common cultural sphere. Persian has been the official language of the Indian subcontinent for 800 years. The national anthem of Pakistan is mostly in Persian and AllamaIqbal, the great poet of Pakistan, wrote his poetry not in his native language of Urdu, but in Persian. In the Ottoman Empire, Persian was the language of literature and even some Ottoman emperors had written poems in Persian. The Ottomans spread Persian language to Balkan territories and the gates of Europe. In all these areas, one could find abundant signs of Persian language and literature, for instance "Sarajevo", the name of the beautiful capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, were formed with the Persian word "sara", meaning "palace". Thus, the related and common sphere of Persian language and Islamic-Iranian culture reaches China, Malaysia and Indonesia in the east. In the north, it covers the Central Asian countries, and in the west and southwest, it includes Asia Minor and the Balkans, as well as Arabic speaking countries.
During the recent couple of centuries, contemporary literature of Iran has served the interests of the general public due to the simplification of language, poetry style and writing, and its principle themes, that is, humanitarianism, liberality, patriotism, and social issues were all expressed in a new form. Since victory of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, Persian language, as the language of revolutionary Islam, has carried the burden of the content of this revolution. The developments of the last half century have also brought the religious, revolutionary and epic literature of Iran into existence.
Modern Persian language is sweet, eloquent, melodious and pleasing to the ear. In addition to Iran, it is spoken in Afghanistan and Tajikistan as an official language and in some other countries of the region; it is spoken as an unofficial language. There is not much difference between modern Persian and the Persian of a thousand years ago; the latter can be understood by any Persian speaker today.
The teaching of Persian language aims at making non-Persian speakers familiar with Persian literature as well as the great and rich heritage of Islamic and Iranian civilizations. It is vital for any Iranologist interested in issues related to Iran in this vast region to understand Persian, in order to gain access to the depth of Iranian culture, and any orientalist who deals with historical issues of the east and west of Islam needs to know it. Besides cultural values, Persian is the live language of communication with Iranians and Persian-speakers.
The Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies which is considered the most authoritative research institution of Iran in humanities and cultural domains hopes that the production of the present series, Spoken Persian, will lead to the promotion of Persian language and mutual cognition in educational and cultural centres of the world.
Teaching Principles and
This book is the first volume of the series Spoken Persian for teaching listening, speaking, reading and writing skills to non-Persian speakers, with emphasis on oral communication. Every effort has been made to follow “Communicative Language Teaching” (CLT) and “Task-Based Teaching” (TBT) approaches to teach the Persian language and culture to interested learners. Part of the exercises complies with structural approach.
The International Phonetic Alphabet
For the benefit of learners who find reading Persian letters difficult at first, the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) has been used to transcribe the Persian texts.
Lessons one and two
Lessons 1 and 2 introduce Persian alphabet and sounds. There is no need to learn the entire alphabet all at once; so, a gradual learning program is implemented in these lessons.
CLT is an approach that pays less attention to the overt presentation and discussion of grammatical rules in the classroom. Instead, it emphasizes interaction, learner-centered instruction and cooperative learning based on natural language and real activities.
Interaction consists of questions and answers, the exchange of thoughts, feelings or ideas between two or more people, resulting in communicative skills. Learner-centered instruction is the kind of instruction that focuses on learners’ needs and goals. It gives some control to the student and allows for student creativity and innovation. In cooperative learning students form a “team” whose players must work together in order to achieve their common goal.
Some other principles of CLT
1. The four skills listening, speaking, reading and writing may be taught simultaneously.
2. Reading and writing can start from the first day, if desired.
3. Careful and limited use of native language is accepted when required.
4. Translation may be used where students need or benefit from it.
5. Language is often created by the students through trial and error.
6. CLT confirms the prominence of grammar in language teaching.
Task-based teaching is a recent development of CLT that draws the attention of teachers and learners to tasks. A task is as an activity which makes learners use authentic language, with emphasis on meaning. Tasks are defined as real world activities that achieve an outcome.
Collaboration and interaction in the classroom that gives students more opportunities to speak is actualised through individual work, pair work, group work and whole-class activity.
Pair work implies an activity performed by two students and is more appropriate for shorter, simpler and controlled exercises in linguistic structures. Question-and-answer exercises, practicing dialogues with a partner and interviews are examples of pair work.
Group work implies an activity performed by groups of three to six and is appropriate for longer and more complicated exercises that require less control. Examples of group work are games, role-plays, dramas, problem solving, decision making and exchanging opinions.
Whole-class activity implies activities performed by all the students. Choral response exercises are a good example of such activities.
Standard spoken Persian
The language taught in the present series is mainly the standard spoken variant of Persian. This variant is used and understood by all educated Iranians throughout the nation. It is also used on the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting programs.
Listening and speaking
All dialogues, explanations and exercises in this volume have been recorded by Iranian speakers in order to teach the listening and speaking skills. Most of the exercises follow the “Record and compare” format which means learners should record their own voice on the software and then compare it with the recording of Iranian speakers.
Dialogues centre around communicative functions and are not necessarily memorized. Words bearing the stress are underlined according to the most current usage. This will help learners acquire correct Persian intonation in the shortest period of time.
Each lesson is taught in the spoken form, followed by spoken and written differences which are explained at the end. Students may ignore the written form at start if they are only interested in speaking or, basically, they do not agree with the simultaneous learning of the two variants.
Encourage students to speak Persian as much as possible to communicate. Provide a clear link between the classroom and the real world.
Reading and writing
Students may begin reading simultaneously with listening and speaking exercises, or a little later, as they wish. All the spoken texts have been also recorded in the written variant to help acquire the reading skill.
Students are advised to write in the written variant, not in the spoken form, if they intend to start writing. Dotted lines are provided in the exercises to write the answer to questions.
Simple and brief composition writing has also been added as an optional practice, from lesson 11 on, in order to improve their writing skills.
Differences of speech and writing
There are considerable differences between the spoken and written variants of the Persian language. The written variant is used in pedagogic books, magazines, newspapers and all official documents. In the present book, spoken and written differences are explained systematically at the end of each lesson.
At first sight, the spoken and written differences may seem to the foreign learner of the language complicated and troublesome, whereas in fact, the differences often obey specific rules. This regular ship will make the learning process easier after the first few lessons.
Most Persian learners are deprived of studying in Iran or of having exposure to the Persian language environment, or they may enjoy a very limited amount of class learning. So, access to grammar is a must to understand and learn the language.
The grammar section in the present work consists of a brief and clear explanation for each language point, followed by a short exercise. The exercise begins with an example with the answer which facilitates understanding of the point and its usage.
Grammar, despite its prominence, is not to be taught directly by the teacher during the class sessions. The present approach emphasizes that grammar should be taught in a practical manner as much as possible.
Vocabulary is central to communication and students should be encouraged to learn it independently. The bulk of initial vocabulary can be done out of class. A quick 1 to 3 minute exercise of vocabulary revision in every lesson as simple revision games and choral responses will help students master the vocabulary.
The total amount of words in this volume reaches 400 which is a minimum for initial learning of a foreign language. Students are recommended to make use of the Persian-English and English-Persian dictionaries at the end of the book which include more essential words as well as the vocabulary pertaining to the sound and picture files.
In the present book, a number of the new words in each lesson have foreign equivalents but the rest have been defined with Persian explanations based on the words that have been learnt in the previous lessons.
Fun in the classroom
Most learners judge their classes by how much they learn from them, not by the fun and enjoyment they have experienced. In spite of this, fun and pleasant activities add interest to a classroom, especially for the younger students.
Teachers are recommended to use their own initiative and the artistic taste of students as frequently as possible in performing the games, role-plays, contests and other similar parts so that class instruction might have as much attractiveness and fun as possible.
The exercises in this book are considered as general guidelines and examples. Teachers are requested to put real life in them by, for instance, changing names in the texts to real names of the present students, or adapting the information in dialogues and texts to facts and real situations in the class and even the society in which the teaching is performed.
It is finally suggested that teachers should employ appropriate methods to encourage the privileged students and groups during class activities.
Errors are considered as a natural outcome of the development of communication skills and do not need entirely to be corrected. Correction should focus on the ones that interfere with receiving and conveying meaningful messages.
Do not stop conversation and continued communication and, at the same time, do not ignore crucial errors. You may prefer to postpone the corrections to a later appropriate time.
Tailoring of the lessons
The present book has not been designed specifically for your class. Therefore, your first step should be the tailoring of the lessons. Omit unnecessary parts or exercises or, conversely, add more appropriate materials or exercises according to the class need to compensate any probable deficiency.
Spoken Persian: a semi self-teacher
Spoken Persian is planned as a semi self-teacher. Language points and exercises are written in the simplest way possible so that students can read the points and do the exercises by themselves, without needing the teacher. This part of learning should be performed out of the class and before the class meets. All answers are available on the software.
The class time should be spent on general explanations, checking homework and exercises, and most importantly, on the spoken activities including questions and responses between the teacher and students, pair work, group work, games, contests, role-plays and others. Please note that teaching the entire lesson by the teacher will slow down the learning process and decrease its effectiveness.
The time schedule for teaching the book is best to be decided by the teacher and students; however, the whole book may be covered in a semester with 2-hour classes twice a week, provided that the recommendations above are fully observed by the teacher and learners.
A virtual workbook is designed in the present book that contains more exercises to clarify the language points and reinforce its lessons. The workbook also presents a higher level of teaching material that will be useful for more active classes.