Farsi: The Language I Never Learned

“Chiara, bia enja.” [Chiara, come here.] said my father.

“Baba, metoonim berim bozi conim?” [Dad, can we go play?]

“Yek lahzeh lotfan.”[One second, please]

“Boshe Baba.”[Okay dad.]

I walked over to my dad, waiting for him to be done sweeping the floor. I wanted to go play with the soccer ball. It was Sunday, this meant I’d only have an hour before I had to leave for Farsi school. I really liked it there. The only bad part was the drive over. It took an hour! I always got antsy in the car.

We arrived at the doorstep of the school. The dark wooden doors were tall and heavy. I placed my hands on the doors, and pushed. I could never open the door, my dad always had to help me. As I walked in I could smell the rice. They always cooked food for the parents. They would sit down around the sofre, a table on the floor. A table cloth is placed on the floor, everyone sits around it and eats there. It is a traditional Iranian way of eating with friends and family. I saw my teacher waiting by the door to the class, I ran over, excited for the day’s lesson.

“Carfsh unja bezar.” [Put your shoes over there] my teacher says pointing to the shoe closet.

“ Salam, shoma chetur hastin?” [Hello, how are you?] I said.

“Khoob, va shoma?” [Good, and you?]

“Khoob”[Good]  I said as a smile crossed my face. I ran into the classroom, excited for today’s class. This time in my life reminded me a lot of a story I read called The Woman Warrior. In the story the author states “There we chanted together, voices rising and falling, loud and soft, some boys shouting, everybody reading together, reciting together and not alone with one voice.” She attended a school that taught her, her native language.

My sister was in the class with the older kids. I could not wait to go to that class. They got to learn how to read and write Farsi! The letters are so different, easily mistaken for Arabic. I love the Farsi language, it is like a skipping rock. You throw the rock and it hits the waters surface, flying. You keep looking at it until it stops.

I never got to take that class, though. The school moved even farther away, I was no longer able to attend. I had not completed the speaking part of school. I spent less hours speaking Farsi. My father was at work most of the day. I spoke Farsi less and less. This took a detrimental turn in my life.

I was about five years old when I stopped attending Farsi school. I was just beginning to get into real elementary school. I still attended Italian school every Saturday. Two languages swirled around the house. Italian was spoken to my mom but when my dad arrived home from work we all spoke Farsi to each other. As the years went on, English became the prominent language. Three children in one house who used to speak comfortably in the Italian and Farsi language soon began speaking more fluently in English. My brother, sister and I began to speak to each other in English, a decision that would impact us harshly.

“Posso andare fuori con amici stasera, Mama?” [Can I go out with some friends tonight, Mom?] asked my sister, Darya.

“Si a che hora?” [Yes, at what time?]

“Non lo so, come le quattro? [I’m not sure, like four?]

“Okay, fa mi quidere a Baba.” [Okay, let me ask Dad.]

“Grazie.” [Thank you.]

Most of our conversations now consist of three languages. My mom speaks Italian to us, and Farsi to my father. My dad speaks Farsi to all of us. Meanwhile we speak all three, English being the one we use most. I am able to communicate with my Italian side of the family through messages and phone calls. But because I never learned to read and write in Farsi, I am not able to communicate with my Iranian family members over social media. They live miles away on a different continent, a different time zone. A completely different land. I am only able to speak to them over phone, video chat, or when I see them in person.

I wish so much to read and write in Farsi. To speak to my family whenever I want, not having to wait for a phone call or a visit that happens once every two years. My mother leaves notes written in Italian on the kitchen table, telling us what to cook or when she will be back. She texts my sister and I in Italian. We write to our cousins in Italy through Whatsapp. My father never got the luxury to do that. He was never able to teach his children everything about his language, something that created who he was.

Over the years we have tried to learn how to read Farsi and we have made little accomplishments. A couple years back, we began to conduct our own little Farsi class at home. My mom and dad pulled out old books that teach children how to read Farsi. This was the beginning of our language homeschooling. I can now read Farsi when written in the English alphabet. However I do not do this with the grace I wish I had. I still stumble over words and hesitate when reading it.

No longer do we have our little Farsi school at home. But the classes that I have had made a huge impact on me. I found myself through my mother tongues. Although I am most comfortable in the English language, I do not consider it to be the thing that has shaped me into the person I am today. All the discipline I was taught, came from Farsi. Each language has had a factor in creating who I am today. Farsi shaped the way I speak. Not only the way I speak to family, but friends and elders. People have different dialects and we can argue that, that is what defines a person but I believe it is what shapes a person.

Language has the power to create us into influential beings. The power I possess by knowing how to speak three languages is enormous. It will allow me to get far in my life, it has given me the power to communicate with relatives and understand multiple cultures. I have been blessed with the ability to fit into a culture so beautiful and creative. Language has given me the power to find myself, to know who I want to be, to know how to be. Farsi has taught me that every human can possess elegance, language has the power that allows you to hold true to yourself and your morals.

Comments (4)

Imani Weeks (Student 2017)
Imani Weeks

I really liked reading your essay.I really like how your introduction paragraph started as an anecdote. I never knew that you could speak both Farsi and Italian. I think it's really cool that you kind of mix all three languages when talking at home.

Arsenio Gomez (Student 2017)
Arsenio Gomez

I really enjoyed reading your essays. I never knew what Farsi was until now. Also I taught you only knew how to speak Italian and English. You know three languages that is awesome. The reason why I choose to read your essay is because your starter paragraph how it starts right into the story.

Chhievling Seng (Student 2017)
Chhievling Seng

I really enjoyed reading this, it was very interesting. Speaking 3 language can get a little tricky, because I speak two and I would always get it mixed up. I never knew what Farsi was, but now I do!

Arianna Haven (Student 2017)
Arianna Haven

As long as I have known you, I never knew that you went to a Farsi class! I always thought you just picked it up at home, from your dad. I really enjoyed your autobiography! I loved the use of the two different languages.