May 18, 2014 | Persian

Persisch: More Persian Learning in German

Now I have figured out how to use Memrise better.

The past three days I have worked more on my new Persisch für Anfänger book. More important, I have finally left (some of) my technological ignorance behind and discovered the miracle of foreign keyboards on my Mac.

This development has changed my life. 

Fellow Mac users who want to type in Persian but don’t know how: click here for one of the shortest YouTube videos in human history (my favorite kind!) on how to set up an electronic Persian keyboard. I chose the QWERTY option, though, rather than the ISIRI option indicated in the clip.

My Handy Persian Keyboard, at the Ready on My Desktop!

My Handy Persian Keyboard, at the Ready on My Desktop!

ISIRI stands for Institute of Standards & Industrial Research of Iran, and the ISIRI keyboard is the official standard there.

The thing is, a QWERTY Persian keyboard setup takes advantage of what you already know if you are a touch typist in English. If you type a b on your English language keyboard, it will produce the equivalent-sounding ب for you. If you type an m, then Persian’s m sound will miraculously appear: م.

With my new keyboard situation I am getting faster fast. And If I don’t know how to call up a letter with the English keyboard (because English and Persian sounds do not have a one-to-one correspondence), I can keep the Persian keyboard, pictured above, hovering wherever I am working on my desktop and peck at it. (Don’t worry, you can resize it; I just made it big for the sake of this picture.)

That I didn’t figure this out ages ago is a profound technological and language-learning embarrassment. Don’t—I repeat, don’t!—be lame like me.

As soon as I had the new keyboard installed, I promptly sent my first legitimate Facebook message in Persian. It may have been totally ungrammatical, but I whizzed right through it!

With my new Persian keyboard, I am now able to do the Memrise lessons that have been stymying me. I have opted for a whole set of Persian lessons based in German. They don’t have audio, but I have decided to live with that. Here they are:

Back to my Persisch für Anfänger book, whose glossary is a thing of beauty, I would like to note. This book is really zipping along. In my second set of exercises, I was asked to translate the following little paragraph, which includes past tense:

My Chaotic Response to the Exercises in Lesson 2

My Chaotic Response to the Exercises in Lesson 2

Vater gab mir eine Ananas. Mutter kam. Ich gab der Mutter Mandeln. Ich bin Sasans Vater. Du bist meine Mutter. Es ist mein Pferd. Dies ist mein Kopf. Sasan kam mit der Mutter.

In English this means: Father gave me a pineapple. Mother came. I gave Mother almonds. I am Susan’s father. You are my mother. It’s my horse. This is my head. Susan came with her mother.

My translation from German into Persian was a small disaster—as you can see from this excerpt of my work shown at left—but tremendous fun. You definitely need to bring some relevant background to this book, whether in Persian itself or in Arabic.

Which is why I am feeling such happiness over the long slow hours I devoted to Arabic this winter. I wasn’t sure why exactly I was doing it at the time; I just knew I wanted to do it. I spent many late but enjoyable nights on Memrise getting used to the writing and vocabulary. I stopped worrying about dramatic progress and simply tried to develop a meaningful connection to the Arabic script.

One thing I missed on the computer—that I am getting now with this book—is the kind of joyous communing I experience with language only when I write by hand.

Some of my most powerful memories of Carlthorp Elementary School in Los Angeles are of the endless spelling lists we had to do.

On a daily basis throughout grade school, at the top left of a clean lined piece of paper, I had to put, very neatly, my name, my grade, the date, and the subject. Then, below left, using a weekly list of spelling words, I would write the first word. Then right below it I would write it again. Then a third time. Then skip a line before starting in on the next word.

Each word three times, several words per column, three neat columns.

The visual and tactile connection between me and language was forged then. And I need it with new writing systems.

People who say they learn a new writing system in hours? Well, that’s not me. I need something deep and repetitive, over a long period of time, before I feel at home.

I am starting to feel a little bit at home.

And you know what this means? New worlds. Arabic letters aren’t used for just Arabic and Persian. They are used for Pashto, Urdu, and numerous other languages as well. The number of people who read with an Arabic-based alphabet?


I am excited.

Comments (1)

payam • Posted on Wed, January 21, 2015 - 4:25 pm EST

I read all of your script . I’m pleased how you explain about our language. That’s right . I am iranian. All in all, you know so much even more than me! for example ISIRI . I got surprised some how. I wish I had your courage to get in to language.
good luck
موفق باشید
viel erfolg

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