One of the struggles of learning Farsi is the same as teaching it: written vs spoken form. As a learner, you spend your time studying, practicing Persian words, memorizing, verb conjugations, and grammatical structures only to find out that nobody speaks that way. In fact, as teachers, we are always on the fence between teaching what’s technically correct and how it’s actually said. I feel like there’s an exception for everything. “Well, it’s technically like this, buuut….”. Iranians are super supportive and appreciative of whatever Farsi you speak- be it a lot or just a few Farsi words to get by – they generally think that learners speak “ketâbi,” that is, the formal, written way [as it might be written in a book (ketâb)]. With that in mind, we’ve come up with some tips to help your Persian sound more natural in the informal, spoken form.
Before we check out the tips, it’s important to know that the only place you’ll really hear that formal “ketâbi” Farsi is on the Persian news or maybe a formal speech/conference/etc. And as writing is always more formal than speaking, you’ll see it in books, newspapers, magazines, literature, poetry, etc.
So these are some tips that you can slowly incorporate into your language study to help you sound more natural in Farsi.
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1. Never say ast
This is the simplest thing you can do to speak the Persian language more naturally and understand it better: reduce ast (is) to sound like eh. Don’t say sib ast (It’s an apple) but just sib-e, (In informal writing such as text messages, this is indicated with a “ه”, so it would look like میزه). Please don’t confuse this with the ezâfe). In fact, the only time you might need part of ast is when the previous word ends in an -eh or -â sound. Take, for instance, khoshmazeh (delicious). It’s difficult to say khoshmazeh-e (it’s delicious), so instead you should drop the “t” from ast and say khoshmazas. Or kojâ ast (where is he/she) would be kojâs.
2. Words with –ân (ان-) sound like –oon
This is why jân is often pronounced joon. Nobody really says nân (bread) but rather nun. You didn’t go to a mehmâni (ceremony) but a mehmooni. That exam wasn’t âsân (easy) but âsoon. Tehran is called Tehroon, and the people that live in Tehroon, are Tehrooni. And the most obvious, Iran, doesn’t usually change, but the Irâni (Iranian) people are often called Irooni.
3. Drop âyâ in yes/no questions
I’ve heard آیا âyâ in Farsi listening materials, but in fact, nobody uses it when speaking. The question is implied in the intonation, so please don’t use âyâ unless maybe you’re asking a rhetorical question.
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4. Forget the present perfect tense
Nice! One less tense you have to learn. Ok, but maybe not because it does serve its purpose (in writing at least). But actually in speaking, it all blends together and ends up sounding like the simple past, so just imagine that’s what you’re using.
5. For plural “you” verb endings say -in instead of -id
The conjugation for shomâ is to add -id (ید) to the stem, but when Iranians speak Persian, the “d” sounds like an “n”. So instead of khoobid shomâ? (How are you?), it would be khoobin shomâ?
6. Learn the spoken form of the most common Persian verbs
Some verbs are written one way- the correct way- and said in a totally different way in colloquial Farsi. For example, mikhâham (I want) becomes mikhâm in the spoken form. Or miravim (We go) is mirim; mishavad (I say) is mishe; bogzâr (let, put) is bezâr; mitavânam (I can) becomes mitunam. Be aware of these as you study and make a note of the way they’re pronounced in informal, spoken Farsi.
7. Particles that change pronunciation
The direct object marker râ (را) becomes “ro”, And most of the time, it’s just “o”. So instead of, for example, medâd râ bede (Give me the Pencil), say medâd-o bede.
The “h” in the plural marker –hâ (ها) is practically silent, for exsamole dokhtarâ (girls), livâna (the cups).
Similarly, the “h” in ham (also) is usually silent. Manam [man ham]: me too or oonam [oo ham]: he/she too
And while we’re at it, the third person singular او oo (he/she) becomes اون oon, such az Oon [oo] raft (she/he went)
Depending on your current level and how much contact you have with Farsi, it might take some time to get all of these. Please remember that there’s nothing wrong with speaking the “ketâbi” way. It’s the correct way, after all. Not only will Iranians understand you, but it will also endear you to them simply because of your efforts to speak Farsi. In the meantime, it’s enough to be aware of these changes so you aren’t totally thrown off guard or discouraged when native Persian speakers are talking.
We hope these tips will be useful for you, and if you have any others on ways to sound more natural in Farsi or another foreign language, please share them in the comments below!