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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The Persian Language and What Makes It Fascinating

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Okay, before we get started with this video, I had one little announcement to make but I forgot what it was ....

Oh, yeah.

As you can see, we have reached 10,000 subscribers on the Langfocus channel.

Thank you for helping me reach 10,000.

Let's keep it going. Let's hit 50,000; 100,0000. Let's see how big this gets.

But you guys are the original crew, thank you for your support from day one.

So let's get into today's topic. I'm going to talk about the Persian language.

It's sometimes known as Farsi but I'm going to call it Persian.

Persian is a language that is widely spoken in parts of the Middle East and in Central Asia

and it has a long history stretching back thousands of years with a few different stages along the way.

The Persian language originated in southwestern Persia.

Wait, I don't see Persia on this map right here!

Oh that's right! Today, Persia is known as Iran!

Persian is the one official language of Iran and it is the native language of about half of Iranians.

The statistics actually range from about 45 to 55% but I'm going to say "half".

and that makes it 38.5 million people.

But virtually, all other Iranians can speak Persian as a second language as well.

Persian is also an official language in 2 other countries but you might not know that

because they refer to the language by different names in those places.

In Afghanistan, the language is referred to as "Dari" for political reasons.

but speakers of Dari Persian themselves often called their language "Farsi".

It's actually really hard to get reliable statistics about Afghanistan, but most sources seem to say that

it is spoken by 25 to 30 percent of the population in Afghanistan.

but it is also widely used as a lingua franca and pretty much everyone in the country can speak Dari.

In Tajikistan, Persian is referred to as "Tajik" because that's what the Soviet Union conquerors decided to call it.

You know how foreign empires like to divide and conquer.

No, no, don't be friends with that powerful country over there. No, no, you're separate, you're distinct from them.

But Tajik Persian is indeed a variety of Persian.

It is spoken by 6 million people in Tajikistan

and another 1.5 million people in the nearby Central Asian countries, especially in Uzbekistan.

Persian is also spoken by about 5 million expatriates around the world, especially in the Middle East countries,

like Iraq, UAE, Bahrain, places like that, as well as the USA.

So let's recap: in Iran, there are about 38.5 million native speakers of Persian.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, there are 11 million native speakers of Dari Persian.

In Tajikistan and surrounding areas, there are 7.5 million native speakers of Tajik Persian

and there are about five million expat speaking Persian around the world.

that comes to a total of 62 million native speakers.

But if we include all the second language speakers of Persian, who use it as a lingua franca, then the number rises to 110 million speakers around the world.

Are Persian, Dari and Tajik all really the same language?

Yes, they are varieties of one single language, they are mutually intelligible,

especially among educated speakers and the formal languages are very close to each other.

There are some differences in the casual language, especially in the accent and some of the vocabulary that's used, some of the spelling, things like that.

but basically, they are one language and they are mutually intelligible.

One difference that I often come across is the loan words in the different varieties.

So, in Iran there are more French loanwords.

In Afghanistan, there are more English loan words and in Tajikistan, there are more Russian loan words.

Some people who are not so familiar with the Persian language might assume that it's related to the Arabic language

because Iran is in the Middle East and is next to Iraq.

But actually, Persian is in a totally different language family than the Arabic language.

It is in the Indo-european language family.

That means that Persian shares historical origins with most of the languages in Europe including English as well as the languages of northern India.

And more speakers of Indo-european languages find Persian much easier to learn that Arabic, because of the grammatical similarity.

But it does look like Arabic because, for historical reasons, Persian is usually written in the Arabic script, except in Tajikistan.

Let's look at the history.

First, there was Old Persian The oldest known records of Old Persian are in inscriptions, dating back to the first Persian Empire.

These writings are written in Babylonian cuneiform script, which is one of the oldest writing forms in the world.

We have writings like this from various places that were part of the first Persian Empire including:

Iran, of course, but also Romania, Armenia, Iraq, Bahrain, Turkey and Egypt.

Next, there was Middle Persian, from about 300 BCE until about 800 CE.

Old Persian developed into Middle Persian, which is also known as Pahlavi.

We can find Middle Persian, mainly in religious texts of the Zoroastrian religion from before the Islamic Period.

The language was referred to as Parsig or Parsik during this time period because it was the language of the Parsa people.

The Persian language entered a mysterious new stage with the Islamic conquest in 651 AD.

The following 200 years are referred to, by Iranian scholars, as "two centuries of silence".

Because there is very little, almost no literature available from that time period.

We don't know exactly why, but it's possible that it was forbidden to write in the Persian language by the Arab rulers.

These two centuries of silence are a kind of transition period from Middle Persian to Modern Persian.

And Persian was affected by the Arabic language quite a lot during this time.

That brings us to Modern Persian or New Persian around 800 CE.

The Persian language was in danger of being lost and replaced by Arabic,

but Persia was one of the few places where the Arabic language did not replace the local language.

However, Arabic was used by the intellectuals and by the elite and it definitely had a big impact on the vocabulary of the Modern Persian that was emerging.

After the end of Arab rule in Persia in the ninth century, the Persian language and culture was once again reinvigorated.

And a new period of classic literature & poetry arose.

One important piece of literature was Ferdowsi's "Shahnameh", the "Book of Kings",

which is the longest work of epic poetry ever written.

Actually, most sources say the Mahabharata is the longest. So maybe the Shahnameh is #2.

It was so influential on future literature and cultural identity that the Persian language today remains relatively unchanged from that time.

This one epic poem is a sort of pillar of the Persian language.

It is said that Ferdowsi intentionally limited the number of Arabic loan words used in his epic poem,

in order to help preserve the integrity of the Persian language.

Of course, there still are a significant number of Arabic words in Persian, but not as many as there could have been.

During this Persian cultural resurgence, the Persian language and culture impacted a wide geographic area.

Person became the official language of the Seljuk Empire, extending into present-day Turkey

and later, was the first official language of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkish later became the official language of the Ottoman Empire but its vocabulary had been very influenced by Arabic and Persian.

Persian also spread to the Indian subcontinent, where it was widely spoken until the arrival of the British.

Persian has left its influence on a lot of different languages, including a heavy influence on the vocabulary of Urdu

and also some influence on the vocabulary of Turkish.

But you can find words of Persian origin in languages as far away as the Malay language in Malaysia.

And, of course, there are English words that are of Persian origins.

Some of them came directly into English from Persian but most of them came indirectly into English, via a different language:

Bazaar, bronze, jackal, kiosk, lemon, mogul, mummy, pijama, scarlet, serendipity, shawl, tulip, turban, typhoon, khaki, caravan, paradise

The word checkmate actually comes from "Shah Mat", which means "The king is dead".

And maybe "tiger", though that one is disputed.

Learning Persian is a great idea because you will be able to speak with a hundred and ten million Persian-speakers around the world.

But it also gives you access to a rich history of literature and insight into a culture that has had a big impact on the world.

And, if you ever decide to learn Arabic in the future, after learning Persian, then you already know a lot of Arabic words from Persian.

Thank you for watching the LangFocus channel. I hope that was educational.

If you have any comments, write them down below and have a nice day!

The Description of The Persian Language and What Makes It Fascinating