May 24, 2014 | Persian

I Love Assimil for Persian!

Now studying Persian via German, French, and English.

A few days ago I began Assimil’s Le Persan, and it is going great. What a carefully put together book. It has wit, it has scrupulous editing, it has excellent pacing.

My Persian Book from Assimil; CDs Are Loitering Nearby

My Persian Book from Assimil; CDs Are Loitering Nearby

Assimil is kind of a hole in my language-learning experience. Their stuff could keep me busy for the rest of my life! Assimil, as I have mentioned before on this site, offers products through all kinds of base languages, so you can study Arabic via German, or Swedish via French, or Russian via English, and so on. 

If you are serious about language and serious about Assimil, though, you are best off learning French, as that is the base for the largest number of Assimil products. For example, I think Persian is offered only through a French base, though I have heard rumors, which I haven’t yet confirmed, that it will soon be offered in English as well.

Assimil, a French company founded in 1929, is a language stalwart in the teach-yourself realm. They have a long history. With the advent of the web and such low barriers to entry, there are many new or newish vendors these days that really don’t pay attention to the details.

Not paying attention is not Assimil’s style.

They even use real paragraphs, containing a bunch of actual words, to explain things. Their books are not full of cutesey bullets and silly games. They are for humans who don’t mind thinking.

A Piece of the Book; That's My Writing

A Piece of the Book; That’s My Writing

My Assimil Persian book does have cute little drawings, though, whose artistry I am appreciating. And there are audio files to go with the book, though the CDs containing them are languishing on the floor at the moment. I will extract them from the packaging and install them soon.

When you study one language in another, I am realizing, the transliterations can be a bit confusing. For example, the transliteration for “six” in Persian is shish in my English materials but chéch in my Assimil. “Friend” is transliterated as doust in French, but dust in English.

Names for Persian diacritics and other features are of course different from language to language. In English, the word “fatha” is used to refer to the little diagonal slash written over a Persian consonant in order to indicate it should be followed by a short a sound. (Fathas aren’t normally written, but they often show up in learners’ texts.) In French this little slashy thing is called a fathé.

Such challenges are trivial, however, and can easily be overcome.

In the Assimil practice exercises, one great thing is that I am regularly being asked to translate Persian into French. That way I get to practice two languages at once!

FORGET English!

I was a little concerned that reading about a difficult-ish language in yet another language that was not native to me would feel like a chore.

How wrong I was. It doesn’t feel in the slightest bit like a chore. Quite the opposite, in fact. I am more interested in reading about language in French than I have ever been interested in reading about anything else in French in all the time I have studied it. I’ve read novels, poems, news, and history in French—and loved some of that—but this is far and away the best.

I am totally sucked in. And that’s what you need to learn and improve. Finding a thing that sucks you in, and then finding a way to make room for it in your schedule, are two of life’s more important challenges.

Hm, it seems they have gotten rid of the English version of the Assimil site, so if you don’t speak French and would like human intervention in your Assimil research, I recommend you get in touch with Schoenhof’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They are the big U.S. distributor for Assimil and have very nice, well-informed, linguaphilic employees over there.

By the way, alongside the books I am using, I have been doing tons of Pimsleur walks in Central Park and now have just 1.5 lessons left for Persian. It has been beautiful study-walking weather.

Central Park's Conservatory Garden, Too Little Visited

Central Park’s Conservatory Garden, Too Little Visited

A Sneaky Egret at Harlem Meer in the North End of the Park

A Sneaky Egret at Harlem Meer in the North End of the Park

In the past week or so I’ve walked by weddings. I’ve walked by wacky birds. I’ve walked by wacky people. I’ve walked in the (light) rain. I’ve walked in the sun. 

I still go to sleep with Pimsleur, too. I took a nap yesterday, falling asleep to Finnish, which was totally relaxing. Then last night I fell asleep to Pimsleur Swahili.

I woke up with the imprint of an iPhone on my back!

Comments (7)

Nazanin • Posted on Sun, May 25, 2014 - 8:07 pm EST

HI Ellen,
Just a quick note regarding the word “six” in Persian: “sesh” and “sish”. The first one is the written pronunciation and the second one is the spoken. The pronunciation of a lot of words including the verbs changes when you speak. It’s called “broken language”, when you try to write the way you casually speak. You write: شِش , but you usually say: شیش

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sun, May 25, 2014 - 8:41 pm EST

Thank you, Nazanin! :)

Nazanin • Posted on Sun, May 25, 2014 - 8:44 pm EST

corrections: “shesh” and “shish”. Sorry about that!

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sun, May 25, 2014 - 8:59 pm EST


Ehsan • Posted on Mon, November 17, 2014 - 6:30 pm EST

Hi !

First, I must say I sincerely applaud your great effort and nonpareil enthusiasm. It is awesome. Persian is my native tongue but I know a couple of other languages, six actually ! However, I have learned them solely for academic purposes, I must confess I never enjoyed learning a language. for me learning a new one has always been nothing but an irksome burden !

But honestly seeing others like you, who so compassionately speak of their experience of learning a language and the fact that Assimil Collection “could keep you busy for the rest of your life ” makes me reconsider some of my really really dim ideas concerning language-learning. I may thank you for that !

As Nazanin almost implied it before, in colloquial Persian usually different aspects of words change, their pronunciation, their grammatical register and even sometimes their meaning, the case here of course is an instance of a slight alteration in pronunciation. شیش or شش !
ُThese kinds of transformations are sometimes so drastic that you might encounter such syntactic monstrosities that would challenge your very understanding of the Language , and I don’t mean only Persian !!!! ;)
Just for a taste; this is a sentence composed entirely of verbs and nothing else, twenty two verbs ! A very common sentence from colloquial Persian that you might hear in Tehran everyday.
داشتم میرفتم بپرسم ببینم میخواد بیاد دیدم گرفته نشسته گفتم بذار بپرسم ببینم میاد نمیاد دیدم میگه نمیخوام بیام بذار بگیرم بخوابم

Good luck on your studies and I would be more than happy to help you with your Persian.

Ayhan • Posted on Tue, May 17, 2016 - 9:58 pm EST

Hi Ellen,

I myself am considering to learn Persian from Assimil. Came across your blog and it kinda motivated me more.

My hobby is learning foreign languages on my own. I ordered Egyptian Hieroglyphics of Assimil in French. I hope to learn the language within this year. Assimil is really the best source for learning the foreign language. I am living in Seoul, Korea. Unfortunately there are no Assimil books here at all. Even the largest Kyobo Bookstore does not have it. So I had to order it thru internet.

Persian is becoming very popular here in Korea as the sanctions were dropped against Iran and the business between the two countries is booming! to me Persian is more of a poetic type language. We have a lot of persian words in my native Azerbaijani language. So it would take 3 months of everyday study to complete Assimil Farsi, I hope. I wish you good luck, hodahafiz!

sirous Taherzadeh • Posted on Thu, February 22, 2018 - 12:15 pm EST

Hello Ellen. I am so glad there are people like you who are enthusiastic about Persian. I read the comments and I’m glad your question’s been answered.
I’m a native persian speaker. I’m fluent in English and I’m mastering my French on my own. Recently I’ve started learning chinese through French. This is because I’m travelling to china in March for two months for work. Otherwise I wouldn’t have even dreamt of starting to learn Chinese after French. Anyway, long story short; I’d be more than happy to help if anyone has questions regarding Persian or French. Just email me.

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