Persian has around 81 million native speakers, as well as many second language speakers all over the world. Three quarters of the native speakers live in Iran. The language is called ‘Farsi’ in Iran, Tajik in Tajikistan, and Dari in Afghanistan. Persian is among the twenty most widely spoken languages in the world. There were approximately 37,000 Iranians living in the UK in 2021.
Persian is an Indo-European language, with a history dating back to the time of the Persian Empire over 2500 years ago. Many people think it would be similar to other languages found in Middle East such as Arabic, but that is not true, as Arabic is a Semitic language, whilst Persian as an Indo-European language is more closely related to Latin, Greek or Sanskrit. Persian writing goes from right to left. The letters of the alphabet are easy to learn, especially for those with a passion to learn new scripts.
Historically, Iran was part of many great empires and had a major influence in the region. Despite the numerous political changes that took place during these years, with the country known first as Persia, then as Iran, the Iranian people prefer to call themselves ‘Persian’ to show their deep respect and connection to their history. The Persian language itself has a significant history, culture, and body of literature, with well-known poets such as Ferdowsi, Hafez, Rumi, Sadi, Nezami, and Omar Khayyam. Their poems have inspired many people through the centuries and continue to do so. The Iranian people are so proud of their literature and culture and speak about them daily.
Iran is well-known as a producer of oil & gas, mining of precious metals, crafts & carpets, caviar, pistachio & saffron.
The UK and Iran have had educational co-operation stretching back over two centuries. Academic exchanges and scholarly collaborations have ranged from natural sciences to humanities and social sciences.
Some people learn Persian to be able to enjoy reading its literature in the original language rather than in translation; some are keen to learn about other cultures and consequently improve their quality of life; some plan to do business in Iran; some do it for fun; some simply love listening to Persian music.
At Durham, we offer Persian as an evening extra-curricular course, open to Durham University students, staff and members of the public. We will teach you how to speak, read, listen and write in Persian, with all four language skills taught in parallel. The Persian language has many dialects and accents in the different cities and regions of Iran, and beyond its borders. The form of language that we teach on our course is the standard dialect used in Tehran.
To see the levels currently on offer, please visit our course listings.