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See also: Persian (Farsi)


1. Grammar and Spelling
2. Punctuation
3. Measurements and Abbreviations
4. Hyphenation
5. Miscellaneous Peculiarities
6. Geographic Distribution
7. Character Set

Section One – Grammar and Spelling

1. Word order: The general word order for an affirmative sentence is "Subject / Object / Verb."

2. Plurals: The suffixes ﺎه or نا are used to make a noun plural.

3. Articles: Farsi does not use articles, as these are conveyed by
context. Other than this, Farsi grammar is very similar to English.

Section Two – Punctuation

1. Speech marks: Chevrons «...» are used rather than English-style “…”.
However, they work in the same way as in English:

a. «Give me more work!», shouted Chloe.
b. «Would anyone like some tea?» asked George.
c. «I’m bored – can I go home now?», Michala said.

2. Other punctuation marks: Colons, semi-colons, full stops and
ellipses are all used in the same way as in English.

3. Capitalisation: There is no upper/lower case distinction in Farsi.

Section Three – Measurements and Abbreviations

Measurements: Measurements are always written using the metric system.

Decimals are written with a slash (‘/’) and thousands are separated with a comma.

Time: Times can be written thus:
10.30 am = ﺢﺒﺻ ١٠:٣٠
noon = ﺮﻬﻇ
4.30 pm = ﺮﻬﻇ زا ﺪﻌﺏ ۴: ٣٠
midnight = ﺐﺷ ﻪﻤﻴﻧ

20 February 2004 = ﻪیرﻮﻓ ٢٠٠۴ ٢٠
20th February 2004 = ﻪیرﻮﻓ ﻢﺘﺴﻴﺏ ٢٠٠۴
20/02/2004 = ٢٠/٢/٢٠٠۴
February 20 = ٢٠

Abbreviations: The use of abbreviations and symbols is rare in Farsi. All words, including currency names, are generally written in full. Equivalent abbreviations for measurements such as ‘kg’, ‘cm’, ‘yr’ do not exist. There should always be a space between a measurement and its unit.

Section Four – Hyphenation

Hyphens: Hyphens are used in Farsi but not often. They are mostly used to split words over lines, but also occasionally to make compound nouns. In the former case, words are broken down by syllabic structure.

Dashes: Long dashes are occasionally used to convey parenthetical information in a sentence.

Section Five – Miscellaneous Peculiarities

The use of bold/italicized letters for emphasis is relatively new to Farsi. It is best to avoid them, as emphasis is traditionally conveyed by phrasing rather than by orthography.

The order of first names and surnames is the same as in English.

Section Six – Geographic Distribution

Farsi (also known as Persian) is spoken in Afghanistan, India, Iran, Tajikistan, the United Arab Emirates and the United States of America.

Nearly all writing in Iran is in standard Farsi, despite the fact that there are dozens of regional dialects, as well as a large number of non-Farsi languages and dialects prevalent in the country.

A language called Dari, which is very closely akin to Farsi, is used in Afghanistan. Dari is intelligible to Farsi speakers and vice-versa, but the two are not interchangeable and one could not necessarily be written correctly by a speaker of the other. Farsi and Dari are both written in a version of the Arabic alphabet. Another language akin to Farsi, Tajik, is used in Tajikistan, but it is written in the Cyrillic alphabet.

Section Seven – Character Set

All of the letters have several different forms; the form used depends on the particular letter’s position in a word.



Persian (Farsi)

By McElroy Translation Company,
Austin, Texas 78701 USA

quotes [at] mcelroytranslation . com


What are some pitfalls specific to Farsi to avoid, that a client should be aware of when translating into this language?

Whether it is Farsi or Persian is the first issue. Most clients consider them different and have coined terms like Farsi Iran or Afghan Farsi (for Sari) or even Western and Eastern Farsi for Farsi and Dari respectively. The correct name of the language is Persian, and some call it Farsi. These are interchangeable and mean the same thing.

When translating into this language, we should notice that most of the English sentence structure cannot be preserved due to the huge difference between the two languages in terms of syntax. It is imperative on the part of the translator to deliver a fluent and natural-sounding translation as opposed to a literal copy of the original with less focus on the meaning.

Many Farsi words are spelled differently, and yet all of them are correct. For instance the terms "میشود" and ""می‌شود and "میشود " are different spellings of the translation of the same word "to be," and assume می is "ing" in Farsi so many words in Farsi can be spelled in three different variations. Some translators prefer one and when proofreading a job, consider the other forms incorrect! It is a poor decision when proofreading to render a perfectly legible text faulty due to such stylistic differences.

Also Farsi is a language that has absorbed many Arabic words. Some translators try to invent new words or use more "Farsi" words which are less common instead of relying on these acceptable terms, and as such this can make the language vague and give readers trouble understanding the material.

What are characteristics of Farsi that are unique or different from English and/or other languages?

Farsi reads from right to left and has its own specific characters.

The most common sentence structures in Persian are the following:
Persian: Subject + intransitive verb
English: Subject + verb

Persian: Subject + object + transitive verb
English: Subject + verb + object

Often, in both formal and informal Farsi, the subject does not appear at the beginning of the sentence as an individual word; instead, it is a pronoun attached to the verb. In other words, the subject appears as a part of the verb.

Persian: Subject + subject complement + linking verb
English: Subject + LV + subject complement

In Farsi, adverbs are normally used before verbs, but can be placed in other locations within the sentence as well. Adjectives are almost always used after the nouns they modify.

How do these characteristics make it important to use properly qualified, professional translators?

When you are working with a language that has an entirely different structure, its speakers have drastically different cultures than English-speaking natives, so you must use someone who is trained for the job, and not only fully proficient in Farsi but also with a near-native level of fluency of English. The risk is way too large if you hire unqualified or unprofessional translators as this can lead to poor translations and a loss of accuracy. I have come across instances where only 30% to 40% of the original English meaning was retained in the Farsi text.

Do you know examples where translation or localization mistakes have occurred with Farsi, such as problems with text expansion, date/time formats, counting errors, character encoding, etc., or mistakes with the translation itself? Perhaps you’ve been asked to review a translation that did not seem to be not the work of a properly qualified, professional translator.

I have a long list of these problems. I can name numerous projects of low quality, and I have even retranslated some projects instead of proofreading them or have rejected such jobs.

There have been times when I have looked at a translated piece and, when I matched it with the original, thought I may have been mistaken and was reviewing the wrong file. Then it turns out that the person who translated the text got the whole thing wrong. For example, I have come across text referring to "power" with electricity as the context, but the translated material reflects this as "force" or "strength," rendering the whole translation useless. I think a lot of people have problems understanding or grasping context in English, and therefore strong knowledge of English is a must. Although I live in Iran where Farsi is the native language, in some instances I prefer to read translations of people who are based in Europe or North America as they translate within context.

Relate an example or two of times you found a website page or form difficult to use because it was poorly localized. How might a business lose money, prestige, or incur legal risk due to this bad translation?


This is one of the failures I have noticed. Even the university name is transliterated differently in different places, and the reason behind this is that many translators, although on the same team, have translated this website with a tight deadline and no glossary was prepared. For example when you go to the "Application" section, the term "Translation Studies" is correctly translated, but in the "Fees" section of the site, it becomes "Intercultural Program." A lot of these inconsistencies along with many grammatical issues exist on the website.

When an applicant goes to this website, he or she faces paradoxes and probably prefers to switch to the English page if he or she knows English well, or leaves the website altogether after encountering such a low-quality translation.

If possible, provide one example of a particular phrase or concept that only a properly qualified, professional translator would be able to correctly communicate.

I had received a test to review from a big company, and three out of five respondents had translated the red sentences incorrectly:
To overcome barriers you might face when trying to use our services we will do the following.

Provide an interpreting service for people with hearing problems.
Provide a ‘Typetalk’ for service people with hearing or speech problems

[Typetalk is a phone service with test-to-voice and voice-to-text capabilities.]

The reason was clear. In Farsi for both "listening" and "hearing" we use a single term and interpreting is generally associated with "oral translation," so most of the translators had deduced that an interpreter could not help somebody with a hearing problem. A person who is deaf or suffers from impaired hearing cannot hear an interpreter well, so they had instead translated this as somebody who is weak at listening! They did not notice the fact that here the interpreter is a sign interpreter. The same justification applies to the second sentence.

Published - April 2009

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