The Lazy Student Guide to Learning Persian
Cover Image: Shadi Ghadirian 2013
Let me admit something. Right Here. Right Now. I am a lazy student during the summer. To my mind the holidays equals not picking up a single textbook for three months. And I know that our brains are like sieves and this means i’m only making it harder for myself in September. But fuck it, summer isn’t for verb tables, vocab lists and essays. The summer holidays is the time when I just get to make some dolla, try new things and sit in the sun. Entitled university student igetareallylongsummerholiday rant aside. This year our summer holiday is kind of taking the piss. Considering my uni commitments dried up in March, my summer holiday has become a five month soujourn through the what will Ayelen fill her time with today? And at this point I have tried a fair few things: crochet, macrame, knitting, baking, gardening and reading like my life depends on it (wow don’t I just sound like a fifties housewife?). There have been less sedentary pursuits: running, swimming, eating my weight in ice cream with friends and getting a job. However, I can’t pretend that I haven’t had time to practice my Farsi.
Let’s be clear, my textbook has remained firmly shut. Instead I have engaged in more “creative” (*cough* procrastinatory *cough*) lingustic exercises. Below is a list of these tried and tested activities, with an extremely arbitrary rating system. If you’re not already disgusted by the level of UnIvErSiTy StUdEnT wankiness, read on!
Clearly this is a fairly tried and tested method of language revision. My fellow language learning comrades have all enjoyed a few hours of “immersive listening comprehension” in front of the tele.
Pros: Iranian film has a lot to offer! There is a fantastic selection of Iranian film out there. Personal favourites include درباره الی (About Elly): a tense drama about a group of friends whilst on holiday by the Caspian Sea. I also loved عرق سرد(Cold Sweat): a true story about the captain of the Iran Woman’s Futsal team who couldn’t play in the world cup without her husband’s permission. Yeah it’s every feminist’s nightmare, get ready to be fokin raging. An honourable mention also has to go to Horn, a short film that is a brilliant representation of Tehrani driving and being a woman in Iran.
Cons: Western hostility towards Iran in general means that no major streaming services offer Iranian film on tap. Viewing comes at a price and offers limited options. Also I guess watching with English subtitles is not the most active Farsi learning I could be doing.
All in all, I give Films at 8/10. Big on entertainment, low on academic attainment!
‘If music be the food of love, play on’ – Nah Willy Shake you got it all wrong. ‘If music be in another language, rock on!’, this counts as learning! Ah my tune-filled friend you have served me well in these lockdown times.
Pros: Music is such a great way to understand more about Culture but also offers a chance to find some really great Iranian tunes that are like, totally, unique, like and offers the opportunity for your friends to be like ‘woah whats this music man? Its grooovy.’ and you can just casually reply ‘just some sick niche Iranian music. Yeah, I understand the lyrics, no biggy.’ . (lol) But on a more serious note, my pocrastination has led me to curate a pretty great (if I do say so myself) collection of Iranian music:
My current favourites are Pallett Band, a group of musicians that are ‘a mix of contemporary and classical Persian poetry; a dialog between today’s social issues and their cultural heritage.‘ – cool, right?
Cons: There aren’t any,
10/10 for Music! Pro tip is also to look up the lyrics – translate them, learn them and sing along to them. Not only does this let you learn vocab, pronounciation, but also just makes you a damn swaggy language student.
I speak out of the deep of nightForough Farrokhzad
out of the deep of darkness
and out of the deep of night I speak.
If you come to my house, friend
bring me a lamp and a window I can look through
at the crowd in the happy alley.
Ok so ya gal’s language proficiency is not great. That’s why reading doesn’t feature on this list, but you know get back to me in a year or so and let’s see what has changed! However, a lil poetry translation with my best friend FarsiDic (think google translate but without the overwhelming inaccuracies) and my actual friend Negin, is something a bit more within my capability.
Pros: Welcome to Iran, a country literally steeped in poetry! From Ferdowsi’s epic ‘Shahanameh’ of Iranian history and famous myths, to Rumi, to Hafez and Forough Farrokhzad, a bomb dot com contemporary female poet (to name only a handful!). Basically I am spoilt for choice when it comes to poetry. Huge shout to Negin who bought me a book of Forough Farrokhzad’s poems and has the patience to help me with translation, I love you. Poetry reading/translation is a brilliant language exercise and also lets you discover the wonderful metaphors that exsist in other languages.
Cons: My language confidence is crippled by one beautiful deft couplet that makes absolutely no sense to me.
Poetry can have 9/10. And that not perfect score is my fault and my bruised pride from lack of proficiency!
We all love a beautiful aesethetically created Pinterest Board, I mean at least at FairlyCurrent we definitely do. And گوگوش GooGoosh, a beloved Iranian singer (who btw is still performing at seventy and creating incredible music) was serving some real LEWKS back in the day:
Pros: Look at all the PRETTY pictures. Look at how STUNNING she is. I WANT her clothes.
Cons: Has absolutely no help in attaining fluency
Scores on the doors are at a low 5/10.
Yeah, so this list has got increasingly less about learning and more just about appreciating Iranian culture. Oh well!
Pros: You make food – that you can consume! Iranian food is the best. Think aubergine, think pomegrante, think walnut, pistachio, dill, saffron and barberries (like a sour cranberry)! Ok you get it right? Yummy yummy food. Here are some of my favourite vegeterian Persian dishes:
- Mirza Ghasemi: SmOkEy Aubergine, tomato, egg
- Kuku Sabzi: herby frittata baby!
- Ash Reshteh: stomach satisfying soup
- And of course RICE and not just any old rice: Tahdig (a rice cake!)
Cons: Food baby and unless you read the recipes in Farsi, not getting you very far with that damn learning.
So there you have it, a comprehensive guide to being a language learning sloth! Leave your own work-shy suggestions below…