Being an Iranian -some might call it Persian- has never been easy as it´s easily associated with revolutions, Islamic fundamentalism, nuclear power… in short with troubles in some faraway countries surrounded by some even more troublesome countries. Recently it seems that the problem of being an Iranian does not only affect the social or national recognition and perceptions but also one of the most distinctive indicators of national identity, which is the language. When I was a child, I was sent by my parents to the English school and the first thing I learnt was “that I speak Persian”. Over years my answer to the question was always the same: I speak Persian. Then I moved to Spain and I noticed that many people easily mix up Arabic with Persian and think there are the same. That´s exaclty where the long & boring years of me explaining this misconception got started. The answer was more and less easy to follow: Persian is Indo-European, whereas Arabic a semitic language. That is Persian belongs to the same family as let´s Polish or Scothish! Whereas Arabic and Hebrew are Semitc. What an irony, right? Have you ever heard about “race against the time” and do you know how snesless it is. This was my case. No matter how much I and other fellow Iranians explained to shed some light on this mistake, there were always more and more people asking me the same question: “but you speak Arabic right?” Have you seen martial arts B movies, where there are thousands of faceless men that come and try to fight and defeat the one and only hero in vain? I sometimes felt like this.
As if it was not enough misunderstanding regarding the most existential aspects of my life, that is where I come from and what I speak. In the recent years I started to hear the word “Farsi” from many highbrows with an air of being kind of proud of their familiarity with that exotic culture, called Persian. At the beginning I was not sure whether it was good or bad but gradually I started to feel that something was wrong about foreigners using the word farsi. The situation became worth when I started receiving translation jobs with the following language combination: -here I had to take a deep breath and hold tight- Farsi/English, Farsi/Spanish, Farsi/German…!
Are the supposedly expert linguists to be mistaken about the real nomination and the official name of a language? Doesn’t anybody know that over centuries and after the Greek name, “Persian” was always called “Persian”? Would anybody in English say “español” or “français” instead of using Spanish & French?
Moreover, it´s not being fussy about a minor linguistic error & making a mountain out of a molehill. It´s about the loss of all cultural and historical values that are tightly associated with the term “Persian”. Persian art, Persian poems, Persian literature, Persian mosques, Persian carpets, Persian cat, Persian past, Persian history,…. What would be Persian history as Farsi History?
To start with it’ll mean using the wrong version of the original word. “Farsi” is the Arabic version of the original word “Parsi” due to the absence of the letter “ P” in the Arabic language after the Arabs conquered Iran. And to conclude -as this post it´s getting too long & too emotional- it would promote the process of cultural rupture and alienation of the Persian identity abroad.