You might say you speak German, French, or Swahili, but you never say you speak Deutsch, Français, or Kiswahili. This is the logic behind people saying they speak Persian—when saying it in English—as opposed to saying they speak Farsi. Why let logic get in the way of your “feels” though?! You call it what you want! Farsi or Persian, Parsi or Iranian, who cares?! Oh, we do, kinda — enough at least that we’d make a podcast episode about it.
To help us get into this much contested topic, we sought the help of a popular language enthusiast. We called upon Canada-based Iranian, Bahador Alast, to help us clear this one up… for now at least. Since 2013, Bahador has invited many international guests on his YouTube channel to talk with him about similarities between languages. Up until late 2021 these videos have been seen around 45m times.
So is it Farsi, or is it Persian? Listen to this episode to hear our take — then come for us in the comments.
Questions we also get answers to in this episode
- Which is correct, Farsi of Persian?
- What percentage of Iranians refer to it as Farsi or Persian?
- Is it not better to refer to Persian as Parsi?
Should I be using the word Farsi or Persian?
Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different response to the question of whether the language should be referred to as Farsi or Persian. The purists will say that the English term for the official language of Iran would be Persian. For various reason, many prefer to use the word Farsi however.
More often that not, we find that the Iranian diaspora prefer to refer to it as Farsi. Due to this, many non-Iranians have adopted the same use when referring to it in an English (or even their non-English native language) sentence. This can be a little odd, because the very same diaspora Iranians will make a point of referring to themselves as being Persian, rather than Iranian (admittedly, they could be of Iranian decent, but ethnically different).
The Wikipedia entry about the Persian language presents a case for the use of Farsi, when speaking English. This being that Persian is a pluricentric language and used by other nations (Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan — but named differently). In stating this, on Wikipedia, Farsi is considered the Iranian branch of Persian.
Who is Bahador Alast and why is he so curious about similarities in languages?
To help us answer the contentious question of whether one should say Persian or Farsi when referring to the official language of Iran, we got a little help. We invited Bahador Alast, a Canadian-based-Iranian language enthusiast, to weigh in on the matter.
Since 2013, Bahador has invited many international guests on his YouTube channel to talk with him about similarities between languages. Up until late 2021 these videos have been seen around 45m times.
Are Iranians Persian?
We were joined by the Persian Girl Podcast girls to help answer why some Iranians refer to themselves as Persian. Check this episode out by following the link below.
Who is Ali-Akbar Dehkhoda and why is he pictured above with his tongue out?
Allameh Ali Akbar Dehkhodā (Persian: علیاکبر دهخدا; 1879–1956) was an Iranian linguist and lexicographer. He authored the ‘Dehkhoda’ dictionary — the most extensive dictionary of the Persian language published to date.
We chose to feature and embellish Dehkhoda as a homage to his great work. We also chose to montage his face with the tongue of Albert Einstein. This was done in reference to the Persian word for language, which is synonymous with the word for tongue.
In a divided world, people come closer together by exploring and learning about what they have in common linguistically and culturally.Bahador Alast
Translation of Persian (Farsi) used during this episode
|Akhmoo:||Person with a frown|
|Kaar, kaar e Inglisaast:||“It’s the work of the English”|
|Kaar e khodemoon:||“It was us that did it”|
|Daaram Farsi sohbat mikonam:||“I’m speaking Persian”|
Image credit: Ali-Akbar Dehkhoda, Iranian linguist and author of the Dehkhoda dictionary – edited with the tongue of Albert Einstein – Ask An Iranian, some rights reserved – 2021