In love with Persian Language: A French Traveler in Iran

Oh My Road! * – In Iran I was feeling linguistically at home. It sounds weird, right? Let me try to explain. On many accounts I can easily establish links between French and Persian, and I think that’s part of the reason why I fell for Persian. I already mentioned the spelling systems, but the similarities don’t end there.


Persian alphabet

There is this interesting habit they have of contracting the words. You know how in French class they teach you that “I don’t know” translate into Je ne sais pas? And how you will never hear a French person in everyday life actually say Je ne sais pas, but you’ll hear everything from Je n’sais pas to Chépa? Well the same happens in Persian. To say “I am going” you’re supposed to say miravam, but what you actually hear is miram. To say “I’m not” you’re supposed to say Ne hastam but you say nistam. I know this happens in English also (“I am not” vs “I’m not”) but I think Persian and French do it to a greater extent.

Then of course there are all the odd French words you come across like shans (chance, luck) or mersi (merci, thank you), but they are the same in most languages in this area.

However there are other factors that played a big role in giving me this homely feeling. They are somewhat more subjective but also definitely related to each other: a definitive language awareness and an inclination to play with the language. I’ll talk about the first some more in a while. As for the second one, it is difficult to describe, but I had a feeling listening to people talk that they liked their language, they enjoyed using it. They were very inclined to playing with it, words, tones, intonation, everything. They like it. The oral culture still seems is still much alive, too. Anybody in Iran, down to the very humble villager, can quote some classic poetry.

So in the end…

While in Iran, I have never spontaneously opened a book the right way (because it’s the wrong way for Europeans). But all hope is not lost: I had a proper conversation with the taxi driver who took me to my last host in Iran. And I know one thing for sure, it’s that I want to learn more Persian. I want to learn it properly. I bought a little book of Khayam’s poems, in Persian, my aim being to one day be able to read them without a translation.

And if the day I start learning Persian properly I have any doubt about why I wanted to do that in the first place, then I’ll listen to the man singing at the end of this mix  and it shall be self-evident again!

* Oh My Road! is a blog written by French traveler and linguist. Read more on her love for Persian language on her blog + , +

6 Responses to In love with Persian Language: A French Traveler in Iran

  • Laurence Christel says:


    J’aime beaucoup votre site. Je commence a apprendre le Perse, et donc tombe sur votre site lors de mes recherches de mots.


    Laurence Christel

  • eli says:

    so happy for me to know you love my language persian.i’ve started learning french .it’s a great language to learn.i’m sure i will master french as you’re hoping to master persian.i live in iran and was curious to know how other people think about persian.have you ever read divan hafez?those poems are ziba va por maani,doste ashare hafez va khayam va molona ra dost daram .khoshhalam to ham dost dari on haro.
    i wish you the best darling.a pleasure to read your post….

  • elena says:

    I’m an Iranian & i’m happy & proud that you felt as Iran was your home.
    Hope others will start to love our country 2…

  • sarah says:

    like the others i’m an iranian too !!!
    I will be so so happy if you want to know more about Iran ….I can help you know more about our history, culture or any thing that you want….
    that’s a great proud that i see the number of the person who love persian is increasing….
    “kheily khosh hal mishavam agar E-mail barayam beferesti” i wanna know u…

  • Athar says:

    Hi ,I am Iranian you say right my language is same of English too,Are you know vocabulary that from Irain
    go to british?!suger is Iranian vocabulary and orange too I right about vocabulary of Irain go to English in my interesting.

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