It’s been a while since I updated the blog; and that was due to the fact that I was done with Farsi and got really busy with studying for a few Tamhidiyah courses. I finished off the Farsi program around beginning of May and the final component requires you to do numerous tests. A written test just like in all the other books; you then get a booklet which has tons of questions, one of them being a 12 page essay that you have to write on a specific topic. After you hand in the booklet, you have to defend your essay, as they ask you questions from it and you give more clarification as to what it is that you wrote and why. Apart from that, there is also a 100-mark question from a book that you are supposed to do during book 6 & 7 of Farsi called dastoor-e-zubaan (basically, grammar rules of the language). You have to get 70% on the 100-mark exam (it is multiple choice) in order to pass.
In any case, I stayed in Qom for about 7 months and in order to get a rough idea as to what one can expect to know and learn (in terms of Farsi) is as follow. Your reading, writing, understanding and comprehension will be very decent. You will easily be able to make out and understand what people are saying on the streets, be able to read and understand what is written outside on advertisements or other places, you will be able to write as well. You should also be able to read higher-level books easily now, but you may not understand every word that is used in them, however if you get the words translated, you will be able to make sense of the sentence since you know how sentences are formed now. In terms of speaking, I think one will still not be on par with what they will eventually end up speaking like. For those who live in the dorms and are essentially more inclined to speaking Farsi (in order to communicate with others who don’t speak the same language), they should be able to speak a bit better than someone who is outside of the dorms and staying at home. Nevertheless, it is still subjective on one’s own efforts and how much time they put into speaking. I noticed a few Chinese students who were well into their Tamhidiyah courses (the 6 month program right after Farsi for basic introductory Islamic courses), but were still speaking very poorly. That’s probably not only due to them not speaking enough, but also because for them Farsi was indeed an alien language and it is great enough that they are able to make it this far.
I also realized that for someone who has a strong Urdu background (and maybe even if they don’t) and wants to learn Farsi, here are a few tips from my experience.
One of the things I noticed during the 6-odd months was that non-Urdu speakers had an issue figuring out were verbs where words joined with the following verbs خوردن (to eat) or زدن (to hit) etc; when you have verbs like these: زنگ زدن (to call or ring) or کتک خوردن (to get beaten up) or زمین خوردن (to fall on the ground) or اتو زدن (to iron). One would say how do you “hit a call” or “eat the ground” or “hit an iron”; but if you speak Urdu you can understand these as someone saying “مار کھانا” or “کال مارنا” or “استری مارنا” etc. If you can understand these, you can start making sense of a lot more verb tenses; even if they aren’t used in Urdu, such as “احترام گذاشتن” (to respect) where گذاشتن itself means “to place”. If you would translate from Urdu to Farsi, you’d end up saying something like “احترام دادن” where دادن means “to give”, but they don’t really say that in Farsi.
Also for Urdu speakers, 4 months is really all you need (the first 4 books that they taught us at our school) to be able to speak basic Farsi; that’s what the average person on the street speaks at. Book 5, 6 and 7 that we learned, taught us a lot of formal words that most people will barely use in day to day conversations. You will be speaking very differently and people will be able to figure out that you are not a native-speaker simple due to the way you will be saying your words; for example if you say simple verbs like “می روم” (I am going), the other person might even just laugh at how robotic and formal you sound, because in conversation they usually just say “می رم” and dozens and dozens of other things that you can only learn if you immerse yourself in a Persian speaking environment.
One other thing I noticed (this is for Urdu speakers) is that there are actually not that many rules and regulations to learn. Here are the top few things that I felt you had to learn to be able to get going with Farsi:
1) The 6 person tenses (Me, You, Him/Her, Us/We, You (Plural), They/Them) — easy
2) Being able to formulate past tenses — easy
3) Learning their present counter-parts and as well as the command tense — this can take time and memorizing
4) Learning how to put the ending on words in order to give them possession to someone (so something like “his car” will be ماشینش where the last ش indicates “his” or “her”, there are 6 endings like these) — easy
5) There are 9 tenses in total (like distant past, past, present tense, future tense etc although they rarely use the future-tense in conversation – you will mostly be able to hear them in some of their movies like Ashab e Kahaf). Overall, this requires a bit of practice
Other than that, most other things, you will not find difficult, like for example why does a word have “گاه” at the end of a word; it is the same گاه as Urdu like “آرامگاه”. It is just a matter of building up your vocabulary which is an on-going process. Also, although technically speaking the Verbs in Farsi are supposed to come at the end of a sentence, during conversation they don’t necessarily always follow this rule.
One last thing, I would put this as #6; it is knowing when to use the word “را” in a sentence. This comes usually after the object in a sentence. This is basically the equivalent to the Urdu کا or کو and for me personally this just started to come naturally as to when I should use it and not. Sometimes you can get away without using it, sometime it won’t even make sense if you use it, and sometimes you just have to use it.
Just know that while there are many Urdu words taken from Farsi, sometimes their meanings and usage have been slightly altered (best example would be “انتقال” which in Urdu we generally use to mean someone has died, but in Farsi it would mean transferred – which of course even in Urdu the literal meaning would mean to transfer, but we usually use it to mean death) and sometimes they have completely different meanings. One other word I learned was “سازش” which in Urdu means a conspiracy and is used in a negative connotation; but in Farsi I learned that it actually means compromise or an agreement and is used in a positive connotation. Things like these usually just come over time.