Properly Identifying the Language of Iran

Persian vs. Arabic

Since the helpful incorrectly labeled the language for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as “Arabic” instead of “Persian” (or Farsi), I thought I would point out a few resources on Persian.

Persian Profile Pages

Compare this to Arabic

UCLA Arabic Profile
Although I think most of us in the U.S. tend to muddle the two, it actually is an important distinction. Not only are the two languages NOT related, but the cultural traditions are different yet intermingled.
You may be familiar with “Persian” culture from the Greek era when they and the Greeks were at each others throats. At that time, Persia was a major cultural and technology center who gave us several nice innovations including paradise, divans, jasmine and other important necessities of life. One important facet is that the Persians of this era were not Islamic (Mohamed would not be born for about another 1,000 years). Many Persians at this time were Zoroastrians, and this belief system has persisted into the modern era (it’s one reason some Iranians left).
Although Persian civilization later embraced Islam for the most part, there is an awareness of a longer pre-Islamic history. Some Iranians view this pre-Islamic past positively, but others are either ambivalent or negative towards it because it is “pagan.” It’s always interesting to see how different groups of Iranians react to pre-Islamic Persian archaeology and history.
Arabic civilization is its own unique entity, but it did borrow from the Persian civilization, which is why the two are often blended together in Western minds.

“Persian” vs. “Farsi”

Another interesting aspect of the language of Iran is it’s English name. When I was college (before this decade), I heard speakers from Iran call their language “Farsi” (although the culture was “Persian.” Now there has been a shift to calling it “Persian” again (but not everywhere)
Here’s some information on the debate with different perspectives

If you’re getting confused, don’t worry – even I got thrown by the Farsi/Persian debate.
For now, I am sticking with Persian, but am prepared switch on a dime. One benefit of the term “Persian” is that people do have a better concept of “Persian culture” than of “Farsi culture” – now you have to make sure we can distinguish “Persian culture” from “Arabic culture”.

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