Horrible struggle with Persian/Farsi

Perhaps I’m trying to learn too many words in one day??? I was hoping to learn 30-60 words a day in the span of 2 hours. I want to know a method to use to learn this language from scratch, as someone who only knows English, where I KNOW that I’m learning a certain number of words in a specified timeframe, for example, a course that guarantees you understanding 1500 words in a month.

I thought Russian was horribly difficult to acquire, but Arabic and Persian are on the WORST level!!! Even Chinese is easier to learn as an English speaker, because of the pinyin and simple grammar, and word order. But I suspect that once you hit the intermediate level, Chinese becomes more difficult. I’d love to know what Ioannis Ikonomou has to say about this.

Instead of doing my uni coursework, I’ve been spending all my time learning Persian aka Farsi, for the past 2 months. Through the day and being up all night. Terrible!! I ended up dropping my other degree because of it. But I don’t know jack s**t in the language!!!

I’m thinking of acquiring 1500+ words through Glossika, and then moving on to LingQ. What do you think??

Is there anything else out there, any program or app or course, where you would be given short sentences to memorize, and a specific number of words you will know by the end, and with what topics are covered?? Glossika just says “3600 sentences and 5000 words”, and I suspect that the “5000 words” is a mistake, because it used to say 2700 words (and still 3600 sentences). And I suspect that a lot of the words that I want to know would appear just once and towards the end.

I must say that LingQ is THE lifeline due to the instant dictionary and text-to-speech. If there’s a language out there that’s not on LingQ, I couldn’t learn it.

Should I aim to learn 30 words a day in the span of 2 hours, then once I get 50% comprehension, 60 new words a day from then on, and then when I hit 85%, 100 new words a day??

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You might have a look at these books in Persian. They are written with interlinear translation. Persian-English. They also offer audio files for individual sentences. Moreover, they teach you garmmar points through sentences so you will undertand them in context. After going through these books to completion I think reading Persian on LingQ will be your next step.

Go to: Learn Persian faster and more efficiently than ever before.


No. You should aim to work on the language for 2 hours, with LingQ, Glossika, or whatever your favorite tool is, with a focus on input based (if looking to enhance your vocabulary) and not worry about number of words you will learn.

First of all, # of words learnt a day is going to vary incredibly depending on the content you may be consuming that day, even if you held the constant of 2 hours of work. So trying to meet some sort of known words a day number seems like folly to me. It just doesn’t really work that way. You could also focus on getting a certain number of words read, or minutes/hours of listening. Those are meaningful tasks. The pursuit of number of words is not, in my mind.

I have to ask though…it sounds like this is giving you a lot of grief if you are dropping another degree because of it (unless you hated that too). Why are you interested in learning Arabic and/or Persian? Is there enough about the culture, the people, or relationships you currently have to keep the motivation high? i.e. Consider whether the aggravation is worth it to you, because if there’s not an inherent interest you’ll probably give up on it.


The only way you’ll conceivably learn words at that rate is with a memory system and even then you’d have a hard time.


Those numbers seem utterly unrealistic, all the more so if you’re starting from zero.

I agree with others that memorizing words from a list or otherwise out of context is a fool’s game. Even if you manage to memorize them in your system, my experience in multiple languages has been that as soon as you encounter those words outside the list/app you were using, you essentially have to learn them all over again. I’ve seen many words that I “should have” known that I only really started recognizing in context after seeing them several times on LingQ or elsewhere in a text.

As for Persian, I happen to have been working on it here on LingQ as a sort of experiment: I didn’t even know the alphabet when I started out just over a year ago and have basically learned it all from scratch on LingQ and Google (plus clarifications from native speaker friends). I’ve managed to learn a bit over 3000 words in that time according to LingQ – although as users here know, that’s not really a comparable statistic, it includes many words I have probably since forgotten again and others are counted double because e.g. there were vowel markings or a non-joiner was missing in one version (I try to minimize these, but it happens).

I surely could have been more focused in my learning and gotten further in that year, but I don’t think learning much more than this would have been an all too realistic goal, at least not without devoting myself to it full-time.


Here are some ad-hoc tips:

  1. I concur with Eric:
    Focus time (for example, Pomodoro blocks with a length of 20, 25, 30, etc. min) is your friend in this context, but the number of words / sentences to be acquired isn’t!
    The latter is simply a bad SLA strategy for distant L2s (Note: Esp. Arabic is a beast similar to Japanese or tonal languages for Indo-European native speakers).

  2. In addition, the important part at the beginning of your SLA journey isn’t learning XY amount of something (words, etc.), but to make learning Farsi a daily habit. It’s estimated that this habitualization takes ca. 2-3 months (see the books on “tiny” habits).

  3. LingQ doesn’t work well for distant L2s.
    For Farsi, I’d first use:

And then I’d switch to

BTW, I like Glossika as well. However, it’s only useful from a B1 level (and upwards), not as a resource for (absolute) beginners…

That said, the main question is:
“Instead of doing my uni coursework, …”
Why would you do that?

There’s never a time problem per se - there are only priorities


Thank you very much for this! Interlinear translations are the BEST! Do you know how many unique words are covered in that 1000 sentences book?

I am learning German, I am using their books for my active study in German. In their introduction they said this 1000 sentence book is meant for beginner and intermediate learners. On the basis of complexity of sentences and a variety of unique words I have encountered in the book I can say that I should be ready to read courses aimed at A2 and B1 on LingQ.

Books like these with interlinear translations allow you to grasp finer points of the grammar especially relative clauses, usage of pronouns, prepositions etc so that you can start reading independently.

Attached are photos from the 1000 sentence German book that I used for my active study.

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Yes, this is THE way to learn a language. But it doesn’t say exactly how many unique words there are? At least 2000 I presume?

That’s a good guess . It depends on the complexity of the senetnce as well so it can go a little over 2000 mark.

Thanks for replying.

I was hoping it was at least 3000 – with each sentence averaging 3 new words… Oh well.

Do you know something like this book for Arabic? Interlinear translations with exact word-for-word in order to learn grammar, and proper transliteration. For distant languages, Glossika has been the most efficient way for me to pick up vocabulary (even as a total beginner), but not grammar so much.

If you happen to be reading the same kind of stuff over and over, though, wouldn’t your progress be slower than something that gives you a certain range of new words each day?

How else can one measure their progress daily?

I hope to use Arabic and Persian in my careers. I think I’m learning foreign languages because I’m terribly lonely. I even told this to my professor, who I might be profoundly in love with, which might be a reason why I’m learning Farsi (they are from Iran). It’s really sad. I can’t believe I’m writing this here.

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Not from a list. In phrases, but ideally in longer texts. Interlinearly translated with short sentences, broken up by phrase.

How long did it take you to be able to read silently? The script doesn’t have vowels, which goes without saying.

Luca Has shared this extension on his youtube channel that allows arabic text(any language text for that matter) to be converted into bilingual text then you can create your own bilingual books Arabic-English. The same results can be achieved in “sentence view” mode here in LingQ.

How to Create Bilingual Texts in Seconds

Consulting a good grammar book alongside will also help you comprehend more sentences with bilingual translations. Just my opinion.


Hi anglien,
I didn’t say anything about reading the same kind of stuff over and over again. That’s what’s great about LingQ…I can import nearly anything. So I read and listen to all kinds of stuff. Novels of various genres, news on very wide area of topics, articles on different topics, podcasts, videos, etc etc.

So I am exposed to all kinds of new words all the time.

My main point is that you can’t force learn x number of words a day. It just doesn’t work like that. It kind of goes in spurts…but that’s because I’ve seen so many words over and over again that there is a long list of words yet to be marked “known”, but on any given day I might be able to mark a whole bunch known. Some days though…not. You won’t be able to say TODAY, I will learn 10 new words that I’ve never seen before. You will forget most of them in a matter of time without seeing them more often than just today.

So the goal should be to spend a certain amount of time with the language each day. You will make stead progress. And it doesn’t have to come from reading the same thing over and over again. You will see words again, in different contexts. After some number of times (even once), you will learn them. You just can’t really force it. Well, you can try, and if you are able to, great! However, I think it’s unattainable, and likely to lead to burnout.


Trying to learn a language distant from English is tough.
You can realistically cram in 50 words a day in something like french but it’s a struggle to get in more than 10 a day in a distant language.
I was hopelessly optimistic with Russian. I managed to get to about 6,000 headwords memorized using anki over the course of two years. Those 6000 headwords allow me to recognize a whole bunch more, though because Russian is heavily inflected.
That said I found it a grind though compared to French and Spanish. Unlike those two languages I ran into a ton of problems.
I couldn’t initially figure out what I was hearing. There were sounds I had never heard before. I couldn’t read the text. I couldn’t memorize anything for shit and I kept forgetting. Comparitively I could retain 80-90% of new french/spanish words. With Russian it was barely above 50%.
At this point I have given up on getting across the finish line quickly. It’s going to take its time. You can’t beat the FSI it seems.
I’m still improving but I’m only using lingQ and mini-stories I have created with the help of chatGPT focusing on the 6000th to 9000th most frequent word.
Then there is listening. I can understand schoolteacher russian perfectly, but TV shows and movies are another thing entirely again.
It seems like schoolteachers speak an artificial slowed down dialect with no munging together of words even to the point of leaving actual gaps between words.
That said I’m still improving. At this point I can understand 50% of TV shows whereas at the two year mark I could barely make out a word here and there.
Oh and I still can’t speak for shit. LOL.
This is for russian though… so your mileage may vary.

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I agree with your entire posit in sentiment but I do think it can be done (forcing it in e.g. a year). That english dude did it. But he spent 100% of his day immersed in an artificial mandarin environment and rammed in what he heard studiously every day via anki.
Most of the rest of us have lives though. So with the methods we have they are actually the most efficient. If we e.g. went to a class downtown no way would we learn it, we’d forget everything we learned between the classes.
I think lingQ and the right material plus listening/watching youtube some every day is the best approach for the time constrained.
I suspect it will take at least five years (same as Steve Kaufman took).

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Being human isn’t sad. It’s just being human.
If I was to take a guess, I’d reckon the most efficient way of all to learn a language is to get a significant other who speaks that language. But it doesn’t sound like the professor is your significant other so…

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Memorizing 30-60 word familes per day from native langauge to target langauge (flashcard style) is definitely possible. The problem is that it isn’t worth the 1-2 hours per day to accomplish it. Learning nouns in this way is probably ok, but don’t do it for other parts of speech or else you’ll just be left with a vague memorized definition for everything and that’s not useful.

Also, avoid reading lessons on lingq that have very high % of unknown words. You mentioned like 2-3 unknown words per sentence which is crazy. At that point you are turning a contextual way of learning into brute force memorizing like flashcards and it defeats the whole point of using Lingq in the first place. I used to think that was a good idea too (“I’m learning more words per hour of reading”), but what youre left with is a bunch of “known” words that are vaguely understood and even if you read a sentence that you supposedly know every word of, you still can’t really grasp the meaning. Besides, reading in this way tends to be very slow and energy consuming. Youre much better off reading easy stuff (more than 95% of known words) very quickly (words read per hour is very high) compared to hard stuff slowly. A higher % of known words will give you a more solid understanding of the unknown words plus youre getting much faster repetition on already learned words to help solidify them further (virtuous cycle), and oh its actually fun and can keep you motivated/engaged which is the most important thing to keep going.


But when you’re starting out, there IS no easy stuff (known words is 0%). Especially with a distant language. There is no easy stuff anyway in the beginning, unless you mean sentence length.

But from the sounds of it, one should stick with ONE subject, in order to get the % recognized words up as quickly as possible.