Double Consonants in Farsi

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:

گوشت برّه

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!


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