Colloquial vs Written Farsi

I’ve read in several places that the difference between written and colloquial (spoken) Farsi is a lot greater than in other languages.
For instance to say “is” (3rd person singular) in the written from you use “ast” but in spoken Farsi people just add “eh” to the end of the word.
There are other differences too.

Are there any native Farsi speakers or non native advanced learners that can address this issue?

That’s right! The difference between written and spoken Farsi is big! We usually don’t write the way we speak! (except when you are texting your friends or in some novels).
For example if you want to say ‘He is fine’ you would say:
حالش خوبه.
But when you want to write the same thing (in a book or essay for example) you will write:
حال او خوب است.
If you speak like written Persian you will sound very strange and if you write in the colloquial way in some cases it can be conceived as rude or unprofessional.
The tricky part is that even in the most formal meetings, we don’t talk like the written Persian. Of course, the formality of language increases but never reaches to written style.


I don’t actually think the difference is that high. It usually follows clear patterns, that you can predict an deconstruct, however, knowledge of both is necessary. The most common difference would be the alef آ that changes to Oo(phonetically, persian او). That also holds true when there is a و followed by an ا. You just use the و. Most common example would be متوانم changing to میتونم. My favourite example is هندوانه becoming هندونه. Looks similar, sound really different.


Interesting responses. Mehdik I assume you’re a native Persian speaker?

I’ve come to realize that there’s truth in what both of you said. I’ve become better at knowing the differences between the written and spoken language.

My biggest trouble with Persian is making the vocabulary stick. (not a problem that I have with Portuguese).
I suppose I just need more exposure to the language.

Yes I’m a native Persian speaker : )

Regarding the vocabulary issue, maybe remembering Portuguese vocabulary is easier for you since there exist some similarities with the English language. On the other hand, in Farsi, even the alphabet is completely different let alone the vocabulary. But as you said, I also believe that with enough exposure you will finally manage to learn them.

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I’ve been studying Farsi for almost two years and have learned mostly colloquial Farsi. At first it takes a bit of getting used to, but afterwards a lot of words feel much easier to pronounce for me. I’ve been using Lingq to improve my listening and the only words in the stories that trip me up because of pronunciation are the basic ones, like گفتن توانستن رفتن شنیدن etc.

For example “I can” you pronounce “mi-tunam” but when a story is being read in a formal voice it becomes “mi-tavânam”
or “I say” is “Mi-gam” but formally it’s “Mi-guyam”

It’s not that learning different pronunciations for a handful of words is hard, or that I didn’t know those words had different pronunciations, I’ve just never heard anyone say them in real life so I’m having to get used to it. I do wish there were more content aimed at beginners/intermediate in colloquial Farsi, but I think from the content Lingq has in Farsi there is a good mix of both colloquial and formal.

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" I do wish there were more content aimed at beginners/intermediate in colloquial Farsi "
Yeah you said a mouthful there.

I just started working my way through the new “Iranians” series that Steve managed to arrange with the help of some people in Iran.
It’s intermediate level material that was very much needed for Farsi.
I also noticed a BBC Persian podcast that was just uploaded but for sure that’s going to be more advanced and in a formal language.

Either way it looks like things are finally starting to get going for Farsi here at Lingq.

yes, that series was a godsend.
In the intermediate area, there is almost no content in Farsi. But advanced material almost doesn’t help, because theyeither have sound or text, never both. i only found one YouTube Channel with subs

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This is an interesting phenomenon - all languages (at least, those whose speakers are generally literate in the first place) seem to have a written form that lags the spoken form by some amount, but the degree of lag varies widely. It seems to be pretty small in English and Portuguese, fairly large in, say, Finnish, and, from what I gather, even larger in Persian and some Indian languages such as Tamil. Is there a good hypothesis that explains the difference? Or indeed, a recognised method of reducing the lag, i.e. updating the written standard to track the spoken form, if people are starting to get annoyed at having to learn a written standard that is increaingly alien from how they speak?

I guess that if there were an official ‘guardian’ of the standard literary language, like there is for French and Finnish, but isn’t for English, then it could actively promulgate rulings to say that such-and-such a construction or word that is common in speech is now valid in writing. Does Persian have such a standard-setting organisation?