|101||صَد و یِک||sad o yek|
This summer, I decided to work in earnest on my Farsi vocabulary. My command of grammar always outstrips my working vocabulary in any language, so I know that to really communicate I need to buckle down and learn more words.
While looking for ideas, I came across Fluent Forever. Now, I haven’t read the book and they don’t have Farsi materials, but they do offer a free English vocabulary list humbly titled The Most Awesome Word List You Have Ever Seen. I decided to spend my summer researching translations for these words. I used resources like Wiktionary, Fast Dictionary, and plain old Google to try to confirm that I was getting the right words. I cut out words that didn’t make sense to translate, and combined words that have the same translation. I also added some words at the end that I thought deserved to be included.
I’m not going to share the full list yet, because after I finished I knew they weren’t all correct. Rather than trying to press someone into editing 600-ish translations, I decided to just start learning them. (I’m using Anki and am doing really well now that I’ve splurged on the iOS app so I can practice from anywhere.) As I learn, I try out my new vocabulary on my husband and he corrects me wherever I’ve made a mistake or learned an outdated or overly formal word. I then go back and fix my vocabulary list. My hope is that once I’ve worked through the full list I’ll be able to share it for others to learn from.
For now, though, I’ll share the first set of words from the list:
Today I learned that the Farsi (Persian) word for group is گُروه (/goruh/). They aren’t loan words in either language — although I can’t find an etymology that confirms they come from the same Indo-European root, they sure look like cognates!
This came up while I was looking for a translation for the English word team. My husband confirmed that if you’re talking about sports teams, in Farsi they use تیم (/tiːm/), which is definitely borrowed from English. But if you’re talking about other kinds of teams, like a team of scientists, you say گُروه instead.
I’m such an on-again, off-again language learner when I don’t have any external structure. However, I have new incentive to pick up my Farsi studies again: We are planning my mother-in-law’s first visit.
I decided to look for options to learn with an app, in hopes that the notifications and stats would help keep me on track. I so wish that Duolingo had a Farsi course. But it doesn’t and I noticed a new-to-me app in the app store, so for the past week I have been trying out the free version of Mondly.
One great thing about Mondly: You can use it for free and get a new lesson each day. A handful of new words, practicing a little grammar, listening comprehension, and things like points and streaks to keep you coming back. However, I’m disappointed on the actual teaching methods. New words introduced seemingly at random, with no explanation beyond a translation. And no repetition to reinforce what you learned from one day to the next, so I’m sure to forget everything after a day or two.
I have had a copy of Persian Grammar, by John Mace, but hadn’t spent much time with it. Over the weekend, I pulled it out to explain a concept to someone and realized there was a lot of useful material in there — and I could understand it. I finally know enough basic Farsi to follow the material in this book.
I’m especially excited because I have been stalling with my Farsi studies lately. I don’t learn vocabulary as quickly as I learn grammar. (I need so much more practice with vocabulary to retain it.) And my lessons move so slowly through grammar. So I’m planning to read through Persian Grammar in hopes of building out my grammatical knowledge and then filling in the vocabulary I really need to have conversations.
Some words in Farsi include long or double consonants (called gemination). In writing, these consonants are marked with a tashdid — a small squiggly symbol that appears above the elongated letter:
This isn’t a new concept to me, as I’ve come across it in Japanese (for example, the word 日本 or nippon meaning “Japan”) and in Catalan (for example, the word paraŀlel meaning “parallel” and also the name of the prominent street Avinguda del Paraŀlel in Barcelona). In each case, you sort of hold the consonant out longer or say it twice, and if you don’t you run the risk of changing the word’s meaning.
So I wasn’t too surprised when a double consonant popped up in my Farsi study. I was, however, surprised by how difficult it was for me. While learning some new food words, I came across this:
گوشت بره / goosht-e barre = lamb
First, I’ll note that the Farsi word above doesn’t even include a tashdid. The only clue is in the transliteration barre (note the double r there). I started talking to my husband about it — not because of the pronunciation, but to ask him about the difference between barre and the word goosfand I already knew — and he suggested that if you want to be accurate, it should probably be written like this:
Like other diacritics, the tashdid is often omitted in everyday writing. (In writing this blog post, I discovered that my Persian keyboard doesn’t even have a way to type it!) Yet another challenge for language learners. 😉 But now that I know, I’m all set, right?
Well … it turns out I’m not particularly good at pronouncing this double r. As far as I can tell, the Farsi r resides at the same point on the roof of my mouth as the Spanish r, which is fine when it stands alone. But that means the Farsi rr gets mixed up in my mouth with the Spanish rr — whenever I try to geminate it, I just start rolling the r. My husband assures me that it’s understandable but it still sounds funny, like the r is getting away from me and multiplying as I speak!
After practicing over and over, I can almost get it right. (Basically, I can now stop the rolling just in time to say r three times, so only one r too many.) I’m going to call that good enough for now. Hopefully it will come to me over time!