Wearing khaki as you watch a tiger stalk a jackal. Hunting for mummies, nuggets of gold, and sparkling cubic zirconia.
Wishing for a cushy job as a millionaire mogul. Doing a magic trick.
Pouring coffee from a carafe into a demitasse. Sipping a mint julep while eating a spinach kabob with pistachio-studded naan bread. Enjoying the fragrance of musk, tulip, jasmine, orange, lilac, or lemon.
What could these bizarre and disparate activities possibly have in common?
They’re all described using words that come from Persian.
While many of these words took a long and winding road from Persian into English, they’ve still attuned your ears to faint echoes of Persian sounds and meanings.
If you’re now hearing those echoes as strong urgings to learn this rich, poetic language, get ready to join a کاروان (caravan) of learners on an extraordinary journey to Persian fluency.
A Caravansarai monument in Iran
We’ll take a brief look at the history and standard forms of the Persian language. Then we’ll formulate a study plan that fits your learning goals and your life. Lastly, we’ll tour the many varied resources you can use to travel from beginning Persian studies all the way up to an advanced level.
Table of Contents
- About the Persian Language
- How Difficult is Learning Persian
- Easier Aspects of Persian for English Speakers
- English and Persian: Differences to Note
- Your Plan for Learning Persian
- Resources for Learning Persian
- Persian Learning Apps and Tools
- Language Games
- Toosl for Writing and Typing in Persian
- Websites for Learning the Persian Language
- Persian YouTube Channels
- Persian Books and Literature
- News and Magazines in Persian
- Persian Podcasts
- Persian Music
- Radio, Television, and Films
Rising up from the Persian Plateau over two dozen centuries ago, the Persian language still expresses the thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams of over seventy million native speakers in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.
Modern Persian is an Indo-Iranian language that traces its roots all the way back to Old Persian, the language used by the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great (550-330 BC). Its writings date as far back as classical Greek and Latin literature.
Persepolis, Shiraz, Iran
Persian has long been a language of literature and culture throughout Central, Western, and South Asia, as a result of Persian influences in those areas.
Like Chinese, Persian is considered a macrolanguage, meaning that it encompasses a group of closely related languages. Unlike the Chinese macrolanguage, the individual languages comprising Persian are somewhat mutually intelligible — although there are some differences in pronunciation and vocabulary. The main division in the Persian macrolanguage is between Western and Eastern Persian.
Persian is an official language in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. These are also the three countries where it’s primarily spoken. Throughout the globe, there are major populations of Persian speakers in cosmopolitan cities such as Los Angeles (and its “Tehrangeles” community) and London.
In Iran, Persian is called Farsi — a word which derives from the same root as “Persia,” an older name for Iran. A little over half of the Iranian population speaks Farsi as a native language, many of them using the Tehrani dialect that differs somewhat from literary standard Persian. (The other half of the population speaks Azerbaijani, Kurdish, and a handful of other recognized regional languages, such as Arabic and Balochi.) Farsi is considered Western Persian. Many Persian speakers across the world call their language Farsi, even if they (or their ancestors) don’t come from Iran.
The three main Afghan Persian dialects are Dari, Aimaqi (named for the Aimaq people), and Hazagari (the language of the Hazara people). The proper name of the Persian standard used in Afghanistan has been a matter of some debate. Persian — called “Dari” by the government — serves as one of Afghanistan’s two official languages, with the other being Pashto. However, some speakers refer to their language as Fārsī-ye Darī, or simply Farsi. And this is understandable, as Dari and Farsi are similar to each other in many ways.
Friendship Bridge spanning the Panj River between Afghanistan and Tajikistan (Image Credit: Khwahan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
In Tajikistan, Persian is called тоҷикӣ́ (Tajiki) or Tajik (sometimes spelled “Tadzhik”). The language intermixes Russian and Uzbek loanwords with its Southwestern Iranian roots. It’s also retained many archaic Persian words, similarly to how Acadian French still uses words now obsolete in Metropolitan French. Tajiki has about eight million speakers worldwide — along with its own body of literature, which developed independently of the more mainstream Persian traditions. The Tajiki variety of Persian is also spoken by a small group in neighboring Uzbekistan — about 5% of the population, although some sources state this may be as high as 30%.
Persian can admittedly be difficult for English speakers to learn, ranking as a Category III language (nearly the most difficult to learn) and taking over a thousand hours of study to achieve fluency. (Compare this to a language such as French, Spanish, Romanian, Danish, or Afrikaans, which would take about half the time to learn well.)
Despite its challenges, Persian has a few similarities to English, as well as a few aspects that might make it easier for English speakers to learn.
If you think that مِرسی — the Persian word for “Thanks” — sounds suspiciously like merci, you’re not imagining things. Just as Persian has gifted English with a slew of useful, everyday words over the centuries, French loanwords have made their way into Persian.
Even Anglophones who don’t speak a word of French can still benefit from this French connection. After all, English gets about ten thousand words from French, so there are bound to be many French loanwords in Persian that you’ll recognize. These include common words such as آکتور (actor), آلبوم (album), آمبولانس (ambulance), آرتیست (artist), اتومبیل (automobile), فانتزی (fantasy), فیلم (film), موزيک (music), پلاستیک (plastic), and رستوران (restaurant).
Like English, Persian doesn’t use a grammatical gender. You won’t have to worry about remembering which words are masculine, feminine, or neuter in Persian, because the concept simply doesn’t exist.
Outdoor marketplace, Afghanistan
Plurals are fairly easy to form in Persian, generally using the suffix ها. Aside from this suffix, the nouns themselves usually don’t change in the plural. (There are a few exceptions for loanwords.)
Persian uses آیا at the beginning of sentences that ask a yes/no question. آیا is known as an interrogative particle and it can be a helpful clue for listeners.
It’s somewhat similar to asking a yes/no question in English that starts with “do”/“does” or “is”/“are,” like, “Does Eric want to come to the movies with us?” or “Is he going to pay for the tickets?”
Even as you might lean on some of the familiar characteristics of Persian while you’re learning, being aware of some of the major differences between English and Persian will help you address them in your learning plan.
Whether you choose to learn Farsi as spoken in Iran, Dari as spoken in Afghanistan, or Tajiki as spoken in Tajikistan, you will need to learn a different writing system than the familiar Latin alphabet.
Necropolis of Naqsh-e Rostam, Iran
About fourteen centuries ago, during the Muslim incursion into the Sasanian Empire of Iran, Arabic script was adopted by Persian speakers. Prior to that time, Old Persian cuneiform was the writing system used.
Today, both Farsi and Dari are written in the Arabic-based Persian alphabet. Dari and Farsi words are written and read from right to left.
Tajiki has had several different writing systems, based on events in its own cultural and political history. Prior to Tajikistan’s tenure in the former Soviet Union, Tajiki had been written in the Persian alphabet. For a brief time, between 1928 and 1939, Tajiki was written in the Latin alphabet. Currently, it’s written in the Tajiki Cyrillic alphabet, which is similar to the Russian alphabet.
Bukhori, a dialect of Tajiki Persian spoken by Bukharan Jews, had historically been written in the Hebrew alphabet. (The Bukhori dialect borrows heavily from Hebrew, with a few loanwords from Uzbek, Persian, Russian and Arabic.) These days, however, the Bukhori dialect of the Tajiki Persian standard tends to be written in Cyrillic.
Later on, we’ll look at some resources to help you learn to write and type in Persian, whether in the Perso-Arabic script or Tajiki Persian Cyrillic.
In Persian, adjectives appear to come after nouns. “Good morning” would be “morning good,” for example.
Even something as simple as “the” or “a” is different in Persian. The definite article — the word for “the” — is not used in written Persian; any noun without an article is understood to have “the” in front of it. On the other hand, Persian does have an indefinite article (a word meaning “a” or “an”).
Young woman in Afghanistan
The grammatical rules used in spoken Persian can differ from acceptable grammar in written Persian. Written Persian uses a Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) word order, which is different from English’s Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) word order. In written Persian, a sentence such as “I see him” would be written as “I him see.” In spoken Persian, however, this SOV word order is not followed as strictly. This more flexible characteristic of the language might make it a little easier for English speakers to learn spoken Persian.
Spoken Persian often drops the subject from sentences, since the verb conjugations will clearly tell you who is doing an action.
As a formal way to directly address a single person, Persian uses شما, the plural word for “you.” This is a convention we no longer have in modern English, since our word “you” is both singular and plural, and we don’t have separate words for formal or informal “you.”
French, Spanish, German, and a number of other languages have a similar convention to Persian. In French, for example, the plural vous (you) is also used as a formal “you” when formally addressing a single person.
Azadi Tower (from below), Tehran, Iran
Especially in Iran, Persian speakers embrace the use of formal titles — in addition to the formal “you” — to show respect to others. These titles can be social, professional, or academic. Unlike in English, titles are often placed after the given name or surname of the person you’re addressing…although there are additional honorifics that may be placed before the person’s name.
Now that we’ve gotten to know a little more about the Persian language, let’s take a moment to talk about the best way to learn it.
One of the best ways to learn any language is to make it part of your everyday life, as much as you can. When you first start learning, this might be as simple as spending fifteen minutes a day studying vocab or doing writing exercises.
As you progress, your increasing knowledge will give you opportunities to integrate Persian more into your day-to-day life. Try listening to Persian podcasts or music, reading Persian articles, watching Persian films, or even engaging in conversation with a Persian-speaking partner. We’ll take a look at resources that will allow you to do all of these activities, and more, to bring you from a beginner level of Persian to fluency.
Other considerations for making a learning plan include your long-term goals for using Persian. Do you want to focus on conversational Persian, so you can speak it with friends or relatives? Is Persian mastery important for a business partnership? Do you have plans to travel in Persian-speaking parts of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Tajikistan? Or do you long to study classical Persian literature in its original language?
Badakhshan region, Tajikistan
Clarifying your learning goals will help you find your focus. Consider also if there’s a time frame for you to achieve your goals, such as hosting Persian speakers in your home six months from now.
Make a realistic assessment of your daily schedule to figure out when you can fit in regular study time. Even if you try to create a sense of immersion by surrounding yourself with Persian media like TV shows, films, and music, you’ll still need some time for more structured study.
In the same way that setting aside a few dollars a day into a savings account can add up to a substantial nest egg over time, spending just a few minutes a day studying Persian can make a real difference in your mastery of the language. With regular practice, Persian words and phrases — and even grammar — will start to become second nature to you, yielding dividends of fluency.
Finally, try to personalize your Persian learning experience. Look for learning methods and materials that appeal to you. Don’t rule out unconventional learning opportunities, like following Persian social media or following Persian recipes.
If you’re familiar with your learning style, you can use this information to seek out resources that facilitate your learning. For example, you might find that you learn better when you can look at charts, maps, or pictures that illustrate the concepts you’re studying. On the other hand, you might grasp concepts more quickly by hearing a lecture or listening to an audiobook.
Also, try to find Persian media that ties in with your personal interests and hobbies. It’s enough of a challenge to try reading or listening in an unfamiliar language; if the subject matter doesn’t interest you, you may start to find your studies boring or frustrating. A way to keep your interest high is to treat yourself by sticking to subjects that you thoroughly enjoy.
As you peruse the list of Persian learning resources that follows, keep in mind your goals, learning style, study schedule, and personal preferences.
Don’t be afraid to try new resources and mix up your learning plan from time to time. Even if you’ve designed a plan that centers on your personal interests, you might still find yourself burning out from the same old routine. Using a language learning journal can help you track your learning goals — and it’s also an encouraging record of your progress in Persian.
Tracking Persian learning goals in a language journal
Throw yourself a curveball periodically, taking a break from some of your usual habits and diving into something different. Check out a different musical or cinematic genre. If you would normally read Persian novels, for example, try switching to nonfiction, poetry, or magazines.
Let’s take a look at the many resources that will help you progress in your quest for Persian fluency.
Taking a Persian course can help you build a foundation in the language. While some courses focus primarily on phrases, which might be especially useful for travelers, other courses will help you learn both vocabulary and grammar. The structure provided by several of these courses will give you a deeper understanding of how the language works.
Rudkhan Castle, Gilan Province, Iran
That said, there are many alternatives to Duolingo and similar products. These alternatives have different price points and features. Many of the paid products come with a free trial, so you can try out different resources to see what suits you.
A few of these courses are designed as completely free resources. Others work like Duolingo and Memrise, in that you can enjoy them indefinitely without charge — albeit with some limited features that are unlocked at the paid tiers.
Persian Language Online offers free lessons for beginners, those at an elementary level, and intermediate learners. Most lessons consist of a short video introducing a concept.
One potential drawback is that the video lessons themselves are not captioned, in either Persian or English. However, you may listen to the audio from the lesson while reading the corresponding Persian or English text. A glossary lists out the vocabulary from each lesson, with its translation and an audio clip for pronunciation help, and there are additional dialogues to study.
Some of these lessons highlight the differences between the spoken and written language and include tips on grammar. There are a few interactive activities, like fill-in-the-blanks exercises, so you can practice what you’ve learned in each lesson.
Mango Languages has a Persian (Farsi) course that’s available for free through many public libraries in North America. You can use the Find Mango locator to find out if you have access to a free Mango Languages subscription through your local public library, school system, or other municipal organization. The Mango Languages course only covers the basics for beginners, but it can give you a start with written dialogues, audio, grammar lessons, and culture tips. You can access Mango Languages through a web browser or a mobile app (for either Android or iOS devices).
Courses from both the Foreign Service Institute and the Defense Language Institute are available for free through the Live Lingua Project. You can also find Peace Corps Persian language lessons on the Live Lingua Project site, although they lack the audio files provided for the FSI and DLI courses.
In general, we have found both the FSI and DLI courses to be solid, comprehensive resources. Their biggest drawback is their age — and the fact that they don’t include interactive exercises. If you are a logical-mathematical or verbal-linguistic learner, you will probably appreciate the in-depth grammar and phonetics notes provided by the Spoken Persian (Farsi) course from FSI.
For those who wish to learn the Dari Persian standard spoken in Afghanistan, the Persian Kabul course from DLI would be particularly helpful.
Similar to the FSI and DLI courses is the Tajiki Familiarization Course, developed by the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Language and Culture Center. The JBLM Tajiki course isn’t fancy, but its free curriculum includes cultural notes, grammar, and vocabulary, as well as written exercises with answer keys and audio files to help with pronunciation. You can access it without a login.
Citadel in Hulbuk, Tajikistan
When it comes to course diversity, it’s hard to beat language-learning giant Memrise. Not only will you find many courses for Persian in general and the Iranian Farsi standard, along with several courses specifically for Afghan Dari Persian, you’ll even get access to Tajiki Persian courses.
There are varying levels of quality and completeness, as many of these are community-contributed courses. Still, the Memrise interface is easy to navigate — especially on iOS or Android mobile devices — and the spaced repetition is a powerful way to make new vocabulary stick.
Some courses come with native audio. Memrise courses will generally not teach you a lot about grammar or cultural context, however.
Tajiki learners can expect fewer resources than those available for the Farsi or Dari Persian standards. Polymath, ilanguages, and My Languages have similar content in their Tajiki lessons, and all lack audio examples for the vocabulary presented. However, they might help you get your feet wet with a few basics in the language.
Pimsleur, based on the linguistic work of Dr. Paul Pimsleur, is primarily an audio course. This focus will help you concentrate on conversation and might be particularly appealing for auditory learners. We believe that the lessons are structured well, although there is very little visual content — so you may need to supplement with other materials to build your mastery of the written language. Pimsleur offers both Dari Persian (Afghan standard) and Farsi Persian (Iranian standard) as separate courses.
Afghan men wearing the traditional pakol hats
If you’re looking to learn Persian for travel and you’re interested in building your vocabulary with set phrases, uTalk might be a good choice for you. While it’s phrase-based and probably won’t give you a fully comprehensive mastery of Persian, we found that it had helpful native audio for pronunciation examples and plenty of opportunities to hear yourself speaking. uTalk has plans for learning Dari, Farsi (Tehranian accent), and even Tajiki.
PersianPod101, from Innovative Language, is a pretty solid program that might appeal to auditory learners in particular. The lessons are presented in a podcast style, often using a conversation between two hosts, along with some video. Cultural information and conversational Persian are included in the program, as well as some grammar information. Overall, we found that PersianPod101 works best as a supplementary resource to a more traditional course.
Based in Yerevan, Armenia, Aspirantum has a 2-week, online course for upper-intermediate Persian speakers. Learn Persian Through the Shahname is targeted at learners who are nearly at an advanced level in Persian. The course is structured around one of the best-known epic Persian poems.
If you’re a serious learner who’d prefer a more immersive, intensive, in-person experience, consider a course like the 16-week Persian Language Semester from Aspirantum. While this course has a hefty price tag, it comes with over three hundred hours of instruction — as well as practice listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
Based on our reviews of these resources, these courses might not provide the best experience for Persian learners. Still, some learners may still find them a valuable part of their Persian studies.
Rosetta Stone, a well-recognized name in language learning, offers a Persian (Farsi) course. Visual learners may like its picture-based approach, and the lessons are fairly well-organized. However, in our experience, Rosetta Stone lacks guidance for learning grammar or a way to practice making your own sentences — and its repetitive approach to language learning could quickly become dull.
Tehran, Iran (aerial view)
You can access Glossika’s Persian course, along with courses for many other languages, through a subscription — although some learners may find the monthly price tag a bit on the steep side. In addition, Glossika tends not to provide a lot of specific cultural information, taking somewhat of a cookie-cutter approach to course design. We also found the Glossika courses to be deficient in grammar explanations and prone to errors in the material.
17 Minute Languages has a Persian course that claims to give you conversational skills within four hours and fluency within fifty hours. In our experience with this resource, its greatest strength is its native-speaker audio. Beyond that, we found that courses from 17 Minute Languages tend to be error-ridden, hard to navigate, uninteresting, and lacking in decent explanations of the target language.
Cudoo’s courses seem to be based on generic slideshow presentations without cultural context or useful explanations. Persian (Farsi) is one of over 160 languages offered on the Cudoo platform, which also hosts course material on topics as diverse as entrepreneurship, health and safety certification, psychology, and accounting.
Bluebird Languages offers Dari, Persian (Farsi), and Tajiki, among dozens of other languages. While the native audio was a bonus for learning pronunciation, we felt that the lessons lacked cultural specificity and that the phrases taught were not put into useful contexts.
Like Cudoo and Bluebird Languages, Transparent Language offers lessons for a staggeringly large number of languages, among which are the Farsi, Dari, and Tajiki standards of Persian. Despite the rich variety of this linguistic Smörgåsbord, we were not impressed with Transparent Language’s offerings. Overall, their generic curriculum made no provision for learning grammar, cultural specifics, or vocabulary in context.
To become proficient in oral Persian, it’s best to find a speaking partner so you can practice both live listening and speaking. We’ve reviewed several language exchange apps, and find Tandem, HelloTalk, My Language Exchange, and Speaky to be solid choices.
Speaking Persian with a conversation partner
If you’d like a one-to-one learning experience with a tutor, you have several options. We consider italki, Verbling, and Preply to be three of the most reliable online resources for connecting with a qualified tutor.
At this time, however, both Preply and Verbling appear to have tutors only for the Farsi Persian standard, and there are only a few Dari and Tajiki tutors available on italki. The situation is much the same on University Tutor, a resource we haven’t yet had the opportunity to test.
For Tajiki learners, who often have challenges finding all kinds of learning resources, the Native Monks website arranges paid tutoring sessions over Skype.
Apps are a convenient, portable way to take your Persian learning with you on the go. There are several of varying quality available for both Android and iOS devices.
These apps generally combine lessons in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, to give you a course-like experience in a mobile package.
For Dari learners with an Android device, three of the top-rated apps in the Google Play store are Learn Dari by Massoud Khaja, Dari – LSK by the Defense Language Institute, and Learn Dari: Dari Basic Phrases by Qvyshift LLC. (The Qvyshift app has the advantage of working offline, although there were complaints of inaccuracies, nonsensical sentences, and poor pronunciations.)
If you enjoy learning through play, you can do so with the Dari Word Search for Android by Massoud Khaja.
Apple mobile users have fewer choices for Dari. Learn Dari – EuroTalk, created by the developers of uTalk, is one iOS app that got a fairly positive reception from users.
If finding quality Dari mobile apps is like finding a wellspring in the desert, discovering apps for learning Tajiki — especially for iOS — is like having a mirage come to life.
Flashcard apps bring the humble, tried-and-true flashcard into the 21st century. With extras such as audio clips for pronunciation help and eye-catching images, these convenient virtual flashcards let you study any time, anywhere.
Learners of any Persian standard can use either pre-made or custom flashcard decks on two of the flashcard apps that we’ve tested and found particularly useful: Anki and Brainscape. Both are highly customizable; Anki gives you more control of your customizations, but the Brainscape interface is a bit sleeker.
Other virtual flashcard options include Quizlet, which we’ve also reviewed, and StudyStack. Both of these resources are available for Android and iOS, as well as through your web browser.
Trying online Persian learning resources with a tutor
As with any community-sourced language resource, you’ll find that the quality and completeness of these flashcard decks may vary.
If you prefer the hands-on approach to learning with physical flashcards, there are several products to keep your decks organized, such as the Star Right Blank Flashcards. These are color-coded and come with handy sorting rings, so you can keep your decks together neatly. Similar products, like the Koogel Index Cards, furnish you with grouped cards and thicker cover pages for each deck, in addition to the ring clips to hold the decks together.
While somewhat old-fashioned in design, with some games relying on the now-defunct Flash player, the Digital Dialects site offers online language games for the Farsi Persian standard. These include games for learning beginner’s concepts like Persian colors, animals, fruits and vegetables, and numbers. Another option is the Hello-World site, which boasts over 600 Farsi learning games.
With fill-in-the-blanks questions that help you learn vocabulary in context, Clozemaster is one of our go-to vocabulary game sites. Although Dari and Tajiki aren’t available at this time, intermediate and advanced Farsi learners might enjoy the challenge of completing Persian sentences with the correct vocabulary.
To start writing in Farsi, Dari, or Tajiki, you’ll need to begin with learning the alphabet. Then, when you want to text, write emails, and do other electronic writing, you can use virtual keyboards or online keyboards, like the ones we’ll look at below.
There are several ways to learn the Farsi/Dari script, including videos, books, and online lessons.
Farsi Wizard has a Persian alphabet playlist on its YouTube channel, which breaks down the alphabet into groups of similar letters.
The Afghanistan Online YouTube channel teaches the entire Dari alphabet in one video. It shows both the Persian script and a transliteration, plus gives an example word with a colorful image for each letter. The same channel shows you how to write Dari numbers, which are different than the Western Arabic numerals we use in English.
Typing in Persian with an online keyboard
Language Animated presents the Persian alphabet on a colorful, virtual whiteboard. The letters are large, clear, and quite easy to read.
If music helps your memory, try singing along with the Dari alphabet song. An original Persian alphabet song (audio only) is also available from the Easy Persian website, which teaches the Farsi (Iranian) standard of Persian.
Take a page from the kinesthetic learning style and get hands-on with the Persian alphabet: Try a Persian alphabet practice workbook. Master the Persian Alphabet from Lang Workbooks is a budget-friendly choice with a lot of nice features, including stroke order, different forms of various letters (isolated, initial, medial, and final), and approximate pronunciation. Start out by tracing, then take the training wheels off and write the letters on your own as you progress through each section.How to Write in Persian by Nazanin Mirsadeghi has similar features to Master the Persian Alphabet, although it’s organized a bit differently. Mirsadeghi’s book also has a glossary of Persian words used in the workbook portion of the text.
Apps such as the youth-oriented الفبای فارسی کودکان (Farsi Alphabet game) and Ali Baharvand Ahmadi’s Learn Persian Alphabets by Drawing for Android — or, for iOS, Lili & Lola: Persian Alphabet — take a playful approach to teaching the Persian letters.
The no-frills Android Persian Alphabet app by Chaitanya Jyothi Pappu was well-liked by most users, but some were disappointed in the lack of pronunciations. It includes some customizations for writing the Persian letters, as well as word tests to help you learn vocabulary. An alternative is Dari AlefBe by WillNa, although it does not appear to offer pronunciations, either.
- Dari Keyboard from Free Online Writing
- Dari Online Keyboard from Online Keyboard
- Dari (Afghanistan) Keyboard from Virtual Keyboard
- Farsi Keyboard from Free Online Writing
- Farsi-Persian Keyboard from Farsikey
- Farsi-Persian Keyboard from Gate2Home (includes emojis)
- Farsi Keyboard by Khosrov Boloorian
- Persian Keyboard by Simple Keyboard
- Farsi Keyboard کیبورد فارسی by Ziipin Network
- Dari English Keyboard 2020 by Infra Keyboard
Due to technical issues, viable virtual Persian keyboards for iOS devices only became available around 2015. More iOS Persian keyboards will probably be developed over the next few years, but there are at least a couple available now:
- FarsiBoard – Persian Keyboard 4+ by Rebin Ali
- Persian Keyboard for iOS 8 & iOS 7 by Yervand Gevorgyan
If you’re already familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet used by Russian, you should have a much easier time learning the Tajiki alphabet. If not, there are a few good resources to learn it.
Indiana University has an online table showing the Tajiki letters in both block print and cursive, with their corresponding IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) equivalents, pronunciation tips, and sample words — as well as renderings in the Perso-Arabic script.
For more in-depth information about how Tajiki is written, as well as other information about the language, check out the Tajik (тоҷики) resource page from Omniglot.
Folk performers at Hissar Fortress, Tajikistan (Image Credit: Шухрат Саъдиев, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
To learn the Tajiki alphabet with upbeat music, vibrant illustrations, and more animals than Noah’s Ark, Tajik Kids TV offers a toe-tapping Алифбо Точики | Tajik Alphabet video.
- Tajik – Тоҷикӣ Keyboard from Lexilogos
- Online Tajik Keyboard from TypingBaba
- Tajik Keyboard – Клавиатураи тоҷикӣ from Branah
- Tajik Keyboard: Tajik English Language Typing by Multi Themes Keyboard
- Tajik Keyboard: Tajik Language Typing Keyboard by Hiz Ayya
- Tajik Keyboard: Tajik Language Keyboard by Winterfell Technologies
At this writing, Tajik Keyboard 4+ by Andrey Fetisov seems to be the only available iOS Tajiki keyboard app.
With lots of varied information that you can explore at your own pace, websites about the Persian language can guide you through studies of vocabulary, grammar, conversation, literature, and Persian culture.
Ali Jahanshiri’s website presents a number of useful resources for Persian learners, such as an online verb conjugator, typing tools, lists of Persian words and phrases by category, and grammar tips. The largest collection of resources is in English, but there are also versions of some resources in Persian, Spanish, French, Italian, and German.
Iranian Chess Set
The University of Texas at Austin hosts Persian Online, a rich resource for grammar instruction, as well as some vocabulary and cultural information. It also includes interactive quizzes, so you can test your knowledge as you go along.
Learn Persian with Chai & Conversation has a blog, a poetry section, and free audio lessons — as well as some paid, members-only content to learn reading, writing, and other skills. There’s also a YouTube channel, with video lessons to help you learn the Farsi Persian standard.
Farsi Wizard is the online home of Tina Rahimi, a professional tutor who gives one-on-one lessons in the Tehranian accent of the Farsi Persian standard. The site hosts tales of a Persian folk hero called Mulla Nasrudin; the stories include Farsi audio and text, an illustration, and a link to the English translations. Farsi Wizard also has its own YouTube channel, with dozens of video lessons about Persian culture, vocabulary, grammar, and writing. For more grammar, vocabulary, and cultural information, Farsi Wizard boasts its own line of ebooks.
The Easy Persian website has an archive of fifty Farsi (Iranian) Persian lessons, which include the alphabet, a bit of vocabulary, and fairly extensive grammar lessons for beginners and intermediate learners.
For those learning the Iranian Persian standard, Transparent Language also hosts a Farsi Language Blog, although there are only a small handful of entries.
Despite the lack of specific cultural information and grammar lessons in their core curriculum, Transparent Language’s Dari Language Blog includes grammar explanations, vocab discussions, and Afghan cultural explorations. While the blog has been inactive for a few years, there are still many helpful and interesting posts available, written by native speakers.
If you’re learning a bit of Tajiki strictly for travel, the Tajik Phrasebook from Wikitravel will break down the basics. It lacks audio files, but it gives a rough phonetic version for each Tajiki phrase listed.
One of the few websites for aspiring Tajiki speakers, Talk Tajik Today has lists of learning resources like dictionaries, flashcards, and grammar guides. It also provides text-based lessons, an extensive word of the day archive, and more.
Unsurprisingly, there are quite a few YouTube channels that could help you learn Persian. Learning resources for the Iranian Persian/Farsi standard are the most prevalent, with Dari channels at a distant second.
Persian learner using on YouTube on smartphone
Videos for learning the Tajiki standard, alas, are few and far between.
Reza Nazari’s Persian Lessons channel is hosted by a professional Farsi Persian teacher. With well over a thousand videos, there’s plenty to choose from for beginners, intermediate learners, and advanced learners alike. There’s a Learn Farsi in 100 Days video crash course playlist, as well an abundance of videos covering reading, writing, verb conjugation, conversation, and other vocab and grammar topics.
Learn Persian Online calls itself the “Best Persian Learning Channel.” It would certainly be a worthy candidate for this title. With over 2,500 videos, grouped into several playlists, it tackles grammar, conversation, and even literature.
The Persian Learning channel (also called Learn Persian with Majid) is a well-organized resource with dozens of videos, categorized into several playlists such as Persian Reading, Learn Persian with Movies, Persian Words & Phrases, and Learn Persian with Songs.
PersianPod101’s channel has a similar setup to some of these other YouTube learning channels. In addition to videos about vocab and grammar, some videos focus on learning hacks and tips for using resources.
Statue of a mythical, horse-like creature at Persepolis, Shiraz, Iran
Intermediate learners can find entertainment and education with the Persian Fairy Tales channel. Each video is narrated in the Farsi Persian standard and subtitled in English. With about three hundred videos available, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn about Persian literature while absorbing the language.
For intermediate and advanced learners, the Persian funz channel will give you a series of half-hour opportunities for Farsi immersion. Follow the adventures of a visitor to Iran as he is introduced to various aspects of the culture. Periodically, you’ll see Farsi subtitles that gloss the conversations and monologues.
Only recently has YouTube started to see dedicated Dari learning channels, so there are still very few channels and videos available focusing on this particular Persian standard.
Dari Tutor has a handful of topical videos, exploring greetings, numbers, sentence structure, and other basics. The channel adds a little pizazz with videos on subjects like Afghan food and idioms. However, if you’re looking to learn how to spell words in Dari, you may be disappointed: A random sampling from these videos only showed phonetic versions of the Dari words, written in the Latin alphabet.
New in 2021 is Dari learning for beginners. Set in a cartoon classroom, the channel provides short bursts of video immersion with all-Dari audio. Images illustrating each vocabulary word will clue you into the meanings of words, which are written almost exclusively in Dari.
The Learn Dari playlist from the Afghanistan Languages channel has a baker’s dozen of videos designed to teach the language. (Some videos do double duty, with English and Pashto translations included. This could get confusing, since Persian and Pashto are both written in a Perso-Arabic script. Students of both Pashto and Dari might appreciate the chance to look at the similarities between the languages, though.)
Afghan Kids Official is another new channel that’s better suited for intermediate Dari learners. Although the hosts are children and the language would probably not be too complicated, the videos have no text, translations, or reliable subtitles to aid in your understanding of the spoken Dari.
AS DariBooks takes a unique approach: The narrator reads English-language children’s books aloud…in Dari. As you read the English text in the video, you’ll hear the corresponding Dari translation. This exercise is probably better for intermediate learners, who already have some familiarity with Dari words.
At this time, YouTube seems to lack any channels designed exclusively to teach Tajiki, although you may find a few videos from various channels.
The Learning Phrases with Chris & Friends channel devotes eight and a half hours in a single video to teaching you Tajiki phrases. The idea is to learn as you drift off to sleep, but you can certainly watch portions of the video while you’re awake. Each phrase is written in both Tajiki and English, and introduced with the English translation. With all native-speaker audio, this video might be a handy way to familiarize yourself with a few useful Tajiki phrases and their proper pronunciation.
Tajik Kids TV has only a small handful of videos, although they might be of some help to beginners in the language. As the channel was last updated in 2018, there may be no more videos forthcoming.
Riverside scene, Dushanbe, Tajikistan
For Intermediate and advanced Tajiki learners, there’s footage from meetings of the Tajik Community in USA, Inc. It’s not captioned or glossed in any way, but it can provide listening practice with unscripted Tajiki conversation.
Whether in electronic or print form, books are a solid resource for Persian learning and practice. Choose books that cater to your interests and learning needs. Try reading for fun, even if it’s just a short picture book.
Especially for complete beginners and lower intermediate Persian learners, graded readers offer a structured way to gradually advance Persian reading skills.
For beginners, there’s the Easy Persian Reader: Beginner to Low Intermediate Level: (Farsi-English Bi-lingual Edition) by Nazanin Mirsadeghi, which includes a pronunciation guide for the Persian alphabet. Persian passages are paired with phonetic pronunciations in the Latin alphabet. You can test your reading comprehension with true/false questions, fill-in-the-blanks exercises, and other activities.
Other choices of graded Persian readers include A Persian Reader (for first-grade learners), the Persian (Farsi) Second Grade School Reader, and the Persian (Farsi) Third Grade School Readerby Lily Ahi Ayman. According to the description on Amazon.com, these are made for “Iranian-American children,” but could also work well for any intermediate-level Persian learner who doesn’t require English-language glossing of the text.
Reading a Persian-language book
While nowhere near as current as its title would imply, A.J. Arberry’s Modern Persian Reader — first published in 1944 — can still give intermediate learners a solid background and reading practice with newspapers and magazine articles. It includes brief glossaries, as well as some historical and cultural notes.
Tajiki beginners and lower intermediate learners might profit from Tajiki: Thematic Vocabulary and Short Stories, part of the Turkicum Book Series. The text works like a graded reader, with simple short stories grouped by vocabulary themes. There’s also information about Tajikistan and the Tajiki language itself, including some basic grammar points.
KidKiddos Books, a publisher of bilingual children’s books, comes through for Persian learners with a double handful of ebooks and printed books. Several of these are also available through Amazon.com.
Other Persian children’s books to check out include Yalda Night by Anahita Tamaddon, My Mother's Persian Stories: Folk Tales for All Ages in English and Farsi by Saeid Shammass, Am I small? آیا من کوچک هستم؟: English-Dari/Afghan Persian/Farsi by Philipp Winterberg et al., and Mana and the City of Stars by Nazanin Mirsadeghi.
Get out your colored pencils and crayons to enjoy Egbert Turns Red/Эгберт сурх шуд, an English-Tajiki coloring book that provides reading practice for beginning Tajiki learners. For learning without coloring, try the Tajiki version of Winterberg’s Am I small? Оё ман хурд астам?.
Textbooks and grammar books can give you guidance to learn the rules and structure of Persian in a methodical and comprehensive way.
Farsi (Persian) for Beginners: Mastering Conversational Farsi by Dr. Saeid Atoofi is primarily for learning conversational Persian, although it covers the alphabet over the course of the text. The chapters are arranged according to topical vocabulary, like seasons of the year, greetings, phone calls, emotions, and dining. The book teaches both formal and informal Persian, highlighting the differences between the written and spoken language. There are a few grammar points in each themed chapter, as well.Farsi Grammar in Use: For Beginners by Gholamreza Nazari starts with the Persian alphabet and moves on to simple verb conjugations and question words.
For intermediate-level learners, Basic Persian: A Grammar and Workbook by Saeed Yousef and Hayedeh Torabi goes into depth about Persian grammar, with examples and exceptions to grammar rules. It’s more expensive than most books, but can be rented monthly — for a much lower price — as an Amazon Kindle ebook.
A Learner’s Grammar of Dari is available online as a free PDF from International Assistance Mission. It not only covers parts of speech and guidelines for using them, but also gives you an overview of the language and its pronunciation. It’s a fairly recent work, with a 2017 publication date.
Traffic circle, Kabul, Afghanistan
If you’d prefer a paperback, Amazon stocks Learn Dari: Your First Dari Words, Conversation, Reading and Writing, Grammar, and Vocabulary by Sayed Naqibullah.
Historically, printed resources for English-speaking learners of the Tajiki Persian standard have been sparse — and expensive for readers. Fortunately, there are a few more reasonably priced options now available.
A Basic Course in Tajik (Grammar & Workbook), by Randall B. Olson, is available in PDF form from the Talk Tajik Today website. Some of it may be a bit outdated, as the text had originally been published in 1994. However, it provides a solid and detailed introduction to Tajiki phonetics, grammar, and foundational vocabulary.
You can read A Beginner’s Guide to Tajiki by Azim Baizoyev and John Hayward online, or download it as a PDF. Published in 2004, this slim, public-domain volume will take you systematically through Tajiki grammar and other fundamentals. (If you’d prefer to purchase it as a print book or ebook in the Kindle format, it’s available through Amazon.)Tajik Language: The Tajik Phrasebook by Gulshan Ibragimova provides basic Tajiki phrases with English translations and phonetic pronunciations. Tajiki: Real-Life Conversations for Beginners is not a textbook in the strict sense. However, it can help learners become more comfortable with everyday, spoken Tajiki. The book includes a brief history of the region, its people, and the Tajiki standard of Persian. Tajiki Reference Grammar for Beginners by Nasrullo Khojayori can add some structure to your Tajiki studies. It also includes pronunciation information and examples to illustrate the grammar rules.
Khojayori also wrote Tajiki: An Elementary Textbook, which is somewhat expensive — and might work better in a classroom setting than for self-guided learners, as some of the words in the dialogues are not glossed. The textbook was published in two volumes in May 2009 by Georgetown University Press, and is accompanied by Tajiki audio and video material on a CD-ROM.
Eton Institute’s Tajiki Phrasebook is available at a low price from Apple Books. It lacks grammar but includes common phrases and idioms, as well as cultural information. It might be particularly useful for tourists in Tajikistan.
Persian literature is available for all standards of the language, but most abundantly for the Iranian Farsi standard.
There are a few Dari books on Amazon, as well: Zarbul Masalha: 151 Afghan Dari Proverbs by Edward Zellem (edited by Aziz Royesh) can give you a taste of the language and culture in short snippets. Amazon also offers The Wisdom of Ahmad Shah: An Afghan Legend: English-Dari Edition (Hoopoe Teaching-Stories) by Palwasha Bazger Salam.
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread — and Thou
These verses, well-known in the English language, are from Edward FitzGerald’s famous 19th century translation of a legendary Persian poem: The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. While there is some speculation that perhaps Khayyám did not pen all of the quatrains in the Rubáiyát, there is no doubt that poetry plays an important role in Persian language and culture.
It has been said that Shahnameh (The Book of Kings), an epic poem that’s revered in Iranian-influenced cultures, made such an impact that the Persian language has barely changed since Shahnameh was written, over one thousand years ago. Persian speakers today would presumably understand Shahnameh fairly easily, based on their fluency in Modern Persian.
By way of comparison, imagine if a 21st century English speaker could pick up a copy of Beowulf in its original Old English form, and read it without any glossing or translation. This would be fairly extraordinary. After all, most Modern English speakers struggle a bit with Shakespeare, who wrote in Early Modern English!
Ancient Persian poetry is still very much appreciated, and has inspired modern Persian poets to continue the proud tradition. Bilingual books of Persian poetry are a fantastic way for intermediate and advanced learners to delve into metaphor and symbolic language. Some of these volumes are not fully bilingual, but offer guidance and insights on interpreting Persian poetry:
- Persian Sugar in English Tea: A Bilingual Anthology of Short Poems and Haikus
- Persian Sugar in English Tea (Volume II): A Bilingual Anthology Short Poems and Haikus
- Bring Me a Lamp (An Anthology of Poems by Modern Iranian Poets): (Bilingual English/Persian Edition)
- The Gulistan (Rose Garden) of Sa'di: Bilingual English and Persian Edition with Vocabulary
- Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz: Bilingual Edition
- Say Nothing: Poems of Jalal al-Din Rumi in Persian and English (English and Farsi Edition)
- Selected Poems from the Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi
- A Millennium of Classical Persian Poetry: A Guide to the Reading and Understanding of Persian Poetry from the Tenth to the Twentieth Century, by Wheeler M. Thackston
- The Pearl of Dari: Poetry and Personhood among Young Afghans in Iran by Zuzanna Olszewska
Intermediate and advanced learners who like keeping up with all the latest news might consider getting some of their coverage in Persian. It’s a great way to learn contemporary vocabulary in a broad range of topics, all while absorbing cultural, political, and historical knowledge about the countries where Persian is spoken.
Afghanistan has two major Dari news sources; one is the government-run Baktar News Agency; the other is پژواک خبري اژانس , آژانس خبرى پژواک (the Pajhwok Afghan News), an independent media source established in 2003.
Kabul street scene, Afghanistan
Iran has numerous Farsi Persian news sources, although a few of them are currently banned. If you prefer sports news to hard-hitting political fare, Khabar Varzeshi will give you all the latest on Iran’s football (soccer) clubs, including news about شهرآورد تهران (Shahrāvard-e Tehrān, the Tehran Derby). Some learners might expand their Farsi-learning horizons to the farthest star with سفید, a speculative fiction annual based in Tehran.
Elsewhere in the world, BBC News has a Persian site that covers international news, especially stories from Iran and Afghanistan. Canada’s ایران استار (Iran Star) is a reliable news source for the Persian speakers in North America. The Persian community in the United States also publishes many Farsi periodicals, such as Ferdosi Emrooz (Encino, California), Asheghaneh (Houston, Texas), and Iranians Newspaper Weekly (Washington, D.C.).
Learners of the Tajiki Persian standard can enjoy native news from several sources:
- Ховар (Khovar, “East”)
- Фараж (Faraj)
- Ҷумҳурият (Jumhuriyat, “Republic”; government-owned)
- Тоҷикстон (“Tajikistan”; privately owned)
- Садои Мардум (Sadoi Mardum, “The Voice of the People”)
To get lots of listening practice and learn contemporary, conversational vocabulary in a variety of contexts, try podcasts. We recommend several podcasts for learners of the Farsi and Dari standards of Persian.
Upper-level learners of the Dari Persian standard may benefit from Voice of America’s Dari podcasts, which cover news and current events entirely in Dari.
For full Farsi immersion, intermediate and advanced learners might try the all-Persian podcast, Persian with Dallas.
Design from a mosque in Ishafan, Iran
You can also find a large library of Farsi Persian podcasts on the RadioJavan site.
Indiana University, Bloomington’s Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region offers a series of podcasts for Tajiki learners, which is hosted on the Internet Archive. Each segment is fairly short, and the pace is slow and careful, with clear enunciation. You can change the playback speed to suit your learning needs.
Whether traditional folk, contemporary pop, rap, jazz, or rock, there’s bound to be Persian music that fits your groove and propels your Persian studies forward.
The repetition of the music and lyrics will help you remember Persian words as it exposes you to Persian pronunciations. To bolster your understanding of grammar and sentence structure, as well as your mastery of grammar, try translating the lyrics of your favorite Persian songs.
There are dozens of Persian artists to explore; you may be pleasantly surprised to find an Afghan, Iranian, or Tajiki artist performing in a style you love — and you’re likely to discover many new songs to add to your playlists. Here are but a few notable singers to check out:
- Widely considered the greatest Afghan singer of all time, احمد ظاهر (Ahmad Zahir) was a legendary Dari Persian artist. His powerful, expressive voice can be enjoyed through many tribute videos on YouTube.
- Popular Tajik folk singer Нигина Амонқулова (Nigina Amonkulova) is a regular guest on Tajikistan’s state-run television channels. Her official music videos are readily available on YouTube. Nigina’s style mixes some pop music influences with traditional musical patterns and instruments.
- Tehran native فائقه آتشین (Faegheh Atashin), better known to the world as گوگوش (Googoosh), had been a renowned singer, film star, and style icon until 1979’s Iranian Revolution. She spent the next two decades in her native Iran, where — as a female singer — she was forbidden to perform. Googoosh left Iran in 2000. Since then, she’s been bringing her music to eager audiences throughout the world.
You can find several Tajik music channels on YouTube, although some of the selections may not be in Tajiki Persian.
YouTube can also introduce you to Dari Persian music in a variety of styles.
Keep your eyes and ears open to Persian learning by engaging with the language in multimedia such as radio, TV, and movies.
Persian radio stations from around the world are widely available through online streaming, although not all stations will stream in all regions.
Sources for streaming Persian stations include Radio Online Live, which gives you access to dozens of radio broadcasts from Iran and Afghanistan. (Radio stations from Tajikistan don’t seem to be available at this time.)
TuneIn provides a similar service, with streaming portals for Afghan radio stations, Iranian radio and television, and a few stations from Tajikistan. (Since these lists are location-based, there may be some broadcasts and music in other languages besides Persian.)
Sedaye Iran is a solid source for Farsi Persian radio. Based in Alfter, Germany, the site is a streaming portal for numerous Farsi news and music stations. Some of these are broadcast from Iran; others come from Los Angeles and other locations.
Houses at Karakul, Tajikistan
Radio Free Europe’s Tajik Service hosts several Tajiki-language radio programs online, with topics ranging from news to economics to sports.
The two primary ways to access Persian television and movies are streaming online or through your cable or satellite provider.
Many media outlets make programming available through their YouTube channels, which you can often watch on a regular television through a streaming device like Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, or Chromecast. Some gaming consoles, such as the Xbox and PlayStation, also support this feature.
For free access to Persian programming, check out YouTube channels like تلویزیون آریا (ARIA TV Canada), pan-Persian Iran TV (which features videos about Afghanistan and Tajikistan, in addition to Iran), and Iran TV Network (which primarily shows interviews, talk shows, and entertainment coverage, focused on Persian communities around the world).
Toot is an Afghan YouTube channel with similar cultural and entertainment content to Iran TV Network.
ايران اينترنشنال (Iran International) has pioneered round-the-clock news coverage in Persian. You can also watch the London-based channel over your satellite connection, as the outlet has provided all the technical specs needed to tune in from locations around the world.
The BBC Persian YouTube channel is a treasure-trove with thousands of high-quality Persian-language videos. It will take you all around the world and give you insights on history, culture, and current events.
RadioJavan hosts its own television platform, with both live and on-demand TV. Try the quirky Gringo Show, or late-night talk show Chand Shanbeh. Music fans can see their favorite artists interviewed on hip entertainment program Spot. Avid video gamers might particularly enjoy the discussions, demos, and interviews on Joystick.
A yurt in Tajikistan, as seen in the Pamir Mountains
At this writing, major satellite TV providers like AT&T/DirecTV and DISH Network are not offering Persian programming packages among their international options. However, you may be able to tune into a few select channels. Like Iran International and RadioJavan TV, the aforementioned Iran TV Network — which is based in California — lists its satellite reception information on its website.
Through your preferred streaming device, you might have access to some of these Persian-language networks and channels. These include networks such as JadooTV’s Persian channels, which broadcasts the Pars TV, RadioJavan, Manoto HD +, and Omid Iran channels, among others.
If you have a Roku device, you have several options for Persian language programming, available via Roku’s Channel Store:
- Jadoo TV Farsi
- Tamashakhane Persian TV
- Tajikistan TV
- Iran TV
- IRAN HD ICC Rubico (500 pre-Revolution Iranian movies)
- Afghan TV Procast
With any streaming device or service, channel availability can depend on your region, and additional monthly fees may apply.
Available programming for streaming services such as Netflix changes over time, and often depends on the region where you’re watching it. Most of these services have a search feature where you can look for programming in your target variety of Persian.
If you can make media like Persian TV shows and movies a regular part of your learning routine, you’ll have an entertaining source of authentic media that teaches you more than just Persian vocab and grammar — it can give you a window into contemporary Persian culture.
Outskirts of Tehran, Iran
As you weave together your own personal tapestry of learning, you’ll find yourself on the path to Persian-language paradise. This journey will open up your world and enrich it.
Out of yourself ? such a journey
will lead you to your self,
It leads to transformation
of dust into pure gold!
Enjoy the journey.
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