I can say Bad Bank in Persian now

It has been 16 years or more since I last started learning a new language. And that was Spanish which is kind of close to French which I already knew so I am not sure if that’ll even count. So it was quite an adventure when I went to my Persian course for the first time last night. (“Wait, do I need something to write on?” I suddenly wondered as I got out of the door.)

“Do you have too much time on your hands?” my bonus co-worker asked me when I told him I had signed myself up for evening classes. I have all the time in the world!, I proclaimed my new credo. (And added, “And I resume work at night after the course”.) But yes, of course, it’s an additional committment and it is at night, starting first past 7:30 p.m.. Would I be able to stay awake and concentrate?

Turns out I can! Maybe it was because it was the very first lesson but I was kind of intruiged. Our teacher is from Tehran and speaks impeccable German with an endearing Persian accent. He also is a fan of Martin Luther. Or was. “The more I learn about him, the less I actually like him”, he informed us. “But he sure did the German language a great service”. In the first lesson, we learned that 60 percent of the language is Arabic words. Apparently, Persians say the Arabic word followed by the Persian synonyme directly after. A very interesting way of finding a compromise with your occupier.

From what we learned yesterday, I find Persian to be delightfully practical. If you want to say “Helen’s mom”, you just say “Mom of Helen”. If you want to say, “your car”, you just say “car of you”, meaning you don’t have to learn a new word for “your”. It gets even better: if you want to describe the car further, you just add the adjective with a connection-e, “maschine-bad” (bad means bad in Persian! How convenient?!). So now I am already very close to discussing investment banking: baanke bad!

We also learned that verbs are always placed at the end of the sentence. This means you never know what someone is doing before he’s done speaking. What a challenge for interpreters at the UN!

There’s a way of saying where you are which literally means “I am [place]”. Interestingly enough, German cool kids to that, too. Including me! I once texted a friend “I am fruit stand”. Now I wonder if this construction comes from Persian or other foreign languages that are spoken by third-generation-immigrant Germans or if Germans just created the same construction without any influence. Maybe I will be library to read up on that.

The tricky parts so far are pronounciation and the fact that written language and spoken language differ. (And I don’t even mean actual Persian letters.) You write naan but you say nun. If you don’t do that, the teacher told us, people think you are from the country side. And of course you want to come across as a cosmopolitan.

Today is Nooroz, Persian New Year. As far as I know, it’s the most important holiday. What a good day to start learning Persian! Nooroz pirooz!


The White House’s Haft-Sin table