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Internet Resources and Language Material

(2016, revised in 2023) This is a kind of online diary of my journey into the fascinating Persian language. It started when on June 3, 2016, I attended a gathering of Farsi speaking people in my refugee work and decided for myself to finally have a go at this language. Everybody has an individual learning approach; maybe this diary can provide you with some insight about how you learn languages best. For often we don't really know how we learn best and fast. Suddenly you go: Ah, so that's how I learn! So here is a documentation of my first steps:


At first I took a look around on the internet and found Persian Online. Grammar and Resources. Austin University Texas and for audio vocabulary and sentences learn101.org/farsi_audio. Then I discovered two dictionaries: aryanpour.com and farsidic.

Before starting to learn one needs to collect some material like this, also audios, for example the 100 free audio lessons of www.goethe-verlag.com/book2. As a refugee aid I have often advised people to learn German with this free course. It has 50 languages and is a superb beginning. In this case I chose the German → Farsi version. On YouTube then, I discovered 36 episodes of Talk Like a Persian: Conversation. These are short dialogues from Iranian movies, played twice, then analyzed in slo-mo, then a third time quick. Much too quick, actually, as in real life. With the freeware "YouTube to mp3 converter" you can transform videos into mp3s and you can also copy the dialogues out of the text under the video into a word document. Another online resorce is the sympathetic podcast Chai and Conversation with 55 laid-back episodes. For a grammar, I found the book "Persian Grammar (for reference and revision)", John Mace 2010, London, N.Y., 227 pp.

Talk like a Persian (36)
Five College LangMedia: Persian Grammar Playlist
Learn Persian Online
Reza Nazari: Farsi Fast (126)
al-Kauthar: Rihla ila l-Farisiye (40)
Pejman Habibi's Channel
Mawuood Academy (57)
Persisch lernen (43)
Café Denj (14)
Majid – Persian Learning (277)

Above, eleven YouTube channels and playlists are linked. The first playlist corresponds to the word document on the left above. The second one is a 45-lesson grammar course with a man and a blackboard. Good teacher. No. 3 is the Persian Online Academy with very useful vocab lists and grammar and a lot of good stuff. No playlists here, you have to hop from one video to the next. No. 4 is Reza's playlist. It may be a bit monotonous, but I can learn well with it and like it. No. 5 is "Rihla ma'a l-Faarisiye", my absolute favorite, and it deserves an extra paragraph below.

No. 6 is Pejman Habibi's channel. No. 7 is PersianPod101; it is good and has a lot of material. The Pod101 series covers many other languages, too. No. 8 has lots of vocabulary for professions and jobs. No. 9 is in German. It only uses Latin transcription and audio, but seems good. No. 10 is the Café Denj series for advanced learners, without any translation. It corresponds to the free textbook "Persian of Iran Today". The page also has valuable audios. Highly recommendable. One of the best free internet resources on the subject.

[On 08/05/2023 I added Majid's channel which only started in 2019. It has a lot in English, unfortunately, but also readings with texts and a whole lot of fine videos.]

Now for the series "Rihla ma'a l-Faarisiye" which is Arabic and means: Journey with the Persian Language. It is such a gem, provided you speak Arabic. The series is about a Lebanese student, Hasan, who visits his friend Mohsen in Teheran for language studies. The forty episodes are about 25 minutes each. Hasan gets a nice room in the house of Mohsen`s family with learning materials and a lot of space. Looks a bit like a dollhouse, but it is a generous gesture, anyhow. Some of the lessons take place here, but the two friends also go places and talk with people in the restaurant, the museum, at the counter and in the gym. Mohsen studies film-making, and he knows Arabic. So the main language is Arabic. When they speak Farsi, the text appears in Farsi and Arabic as subtitles.

A running gag is that words magically appear on the wall, in the mirror and in several other places. People and things can also appear and disappear. Whenever Hasan asks how this can be, his friend answers: "This is not important. Important is that you learn Farsi." There are also ironic self-references in the program, for example when the father says: "There is a language program on Al-Kawthar which you may find useful." Al-Kawthar is the Iranian TV program that broadcast the series; the whole content of the channel is in Arabic. Each episode has a grammar part where a teacher (Dr. Mas'ood Fikri, the author of the series himself!) stands at a desk talking to six students about grammatical phenomena. They look a little like a gospel choir, but the lessons are useful, and the teacher is an expert in the Arabic language, too.

Of course, this whole thing is in Arabic and for Arabs, but it is something else and it is easy to identify with Hasan and follow his approach. The way he repeats things, the way he stutters his first words, the way he really wants to know ... all this is captivating. - No matter which language you are learning, find this thing that captivates you!

Almost Three Months

(August 27, 2016) Every working day I have an opportunity to speak a little Persian with refugees from Afghanistan and Iran. Most Farsi speaking people are amazed when they hear me stutter in Farsi and it actually motivates them to learn German when they see how I learn their language. When I register Farsi-speaking people for the work agency I now get along by myself for about 70% of the questionnaire. I still haven't mastered verbs, so I routinely drop out at the end of a sentence, but it's getting better every week.

In order to get a handwriting routine I am writing down the TV series "Rihla" and got to episode 29 out of 40. I put pics from the films all over the envelope of the notebook like a happy schoolboy, because one secret of learning certainly is having fun with it.

Words are like jigsaw pieces. Turkish and Persian share words, for example, and when you look on an Indian menu you'll find some Farsi vocabulary there, too. When you know Arabic, Farsi is especially easy, as you will already know the letters and about 50 per cent of the vocabulary. But there are many "false friends": "kaseef" كثيف, for example, in Farsi means "dirty", in Arabic it means "intense".

Five Months and a Half

(November 17, 2016) After almost half a year I am using Farsi on a daily basis at work with the refugees. When I fill in the form with them about educational and work experience, I do that in Farsi without a translator mostly. For a bit more than three months I had dedicated almost every weekend and many evenings to Farsi. I watched tens of hours of documentaries and movies with English subtitles. YouTube has a lot in this respect. The memoirs 'From Tehran to Cairo' with Queen Farah Pahlavi talking, for example. Or some speeches of Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei for contrast. The texts are on his website. Both are in high audio quality and long. Then there are Farsi programs like Manoto or BBC Farsi. There is an excellent pictorial dictionary with 12.500 words and concepts Farsi-German (PONS) and also use a German textbook.

Seven Years On

(2023) What remained of all of the studying? Not enough, I must self-critically admit. Too little speaking, too little writing. It is so easy to waste time doing things that don't make you speak or understand better. But I am still at! There are mp3s in ten languages on my mobile and Farsi is one of them. Time to change strategy ...

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