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Resources for Learning Farsi

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m in the midst of learning Farsi (Persian). There aren’t any Farsi classes nearby, so my learning has mainly been self-study. Learning by yourself is hard — even more so when you’re learning a less popular language. (There are tons of online resources for teaching yourself Spanish. Farsi? Not so much.)

I tried a number of methods before settling on something that seems to be working. Approaches that didn’t work so well for me:

  • Pimsleur: Although the audio lessons were great for learning some basic expressions and pronunciation early on, the language they taught was too formal and limited to be practical beyond those basics.
  • Modern Persian (Teach Yourself Books, by John Case): This book helped for learning to read and write, but the vocabulary was odd and the approach just didn’t click with me.
  • Farsi Asan (by Dr. Alaeddin Pazargadi): This set of 5 books came with CDs for listening practice. Unfortunately, they are also designed to be used in a classroom setting. The books have some interesting speaking exercises and passages for reading comprehension, but the lessons are a bit hard to follow and don’t work so well for self-study. I plan to come back to them when I’m ready to practice my reading skills, though.
  • Persian Grammar: For Reference and Revision (by John Case): This is an excellent grammar book. I’m really glad to have it for reference and would recommend it to anyone who’s learning Farsi, but it isn’t designed as a primary language-learning tool.
  • Osmosis: On days when I don’t feel like studying, I rely on picking up a word or phrase here or there from one of the Farsi speakers around me. This approach is fun and can lead you to more slang and everyday phrases, but it’s definitely not recommended for serious learning. 🙂

After a lot of trial, error, and procrastination, I settled on a combination of Easy Persian and Memrise. With these two resources, I’m feeling more accomplished and learning faster than ever.

Easy Persian is a completely free and comprehensive set of online language lessons. The teaching style works really well for a me: A focus on reading and writing and a more grammar-based lesson structure, but with everyday vocabulary and recordings to help with pronunciation. The only downside is there isn’t a lot of vocabulary repetition or reinforcement — as a result, I tend to forget the words I learned in previous lessons. (This is also my weakest point in learning languages. I adore grammar, but learning new vocabulary is slow-going.)

That’s where Memrise comes in. If you aren’t familiar with it, Memrise is basically a souped-up flash card service. You can create your own set of flash cards or use any of the existing courses already available there. I used Memrise while I was living and taking language classes in Germany. It really helped me solidify all the German vocabulary included in the B1 German language test.

This time around, I decided to create my own, private Memrise course. I took the vocabulary from each Easy Persian lesson I’d finished and created a matching lesson in Memrise. And I keep adding more vocabulary as I go through more and more lessons, which gives me a great way to review new words and keep older ones fresh in my head. I’m retaining way more vocabulary than I did before!

My only problem now is consistency. I still go through phases where I slack off and don’t study. So now that I’ve hit on a method that works well for me, I’m going to try to commit to more regular studying. For the next 4 weeks, I plan to spend at least 30 minutes a day going through a new lesson and reviewing the vocabulary. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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Happiness Engineer for Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com. Linguaphile and Translator. Tester.