Persian (Farsi/Tajik)

Why Study Persian?

Persian language is sweet (farsi shireen ast)!

Persian, an Indo-European language with a rich cultural and literary history, enjoys the status of official language in three countries: Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan where it is locally known as Farsi, Dari and Tajiki respectively.

Beyond this core Persianate societies, significant Persian-speaking minority populations live in Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Yemen, and the UAE. The language is, indeed, the second most spoken language in the Middle East after Arabic.

Iran’s economic and political clout, regional geopolitical realities, its complicated relations with the West, especially the United States, and strategic importance of Afghanistan and Tajikistan have created a demand for Persian linguists and cultural experts to join the ranks of diplomats, officials in government agencies, journalists, international development and aid organizations, political analysts, the military, conflict management and resolution intermediaries, and translators and interpreters. In fact, Persian language experts in the US are high in demand but short in supply. 

It is well-accepted by political analysts that Iran, owing to its increasing military strength, ascending religious soft power, and natural gas and oil-rich economy, has emerged as a major geopolitical player in the region. The country is endowed with the world’s second-largest natural gas and fourth-largest oil reserves. On top of it, major shale oil reserves (estimated to be at 2 billion barrels of light crude) was recently discovered in its western Lorestan province.

Persian has been a prestigious language of high culture in the Persianate world, stretching from the Ottoman Empire to Iran, Central Asia, and South Asia, and has had a considerable influence not only on neighboring Iranic languages but also on the Turkic (Uzbek, Uyghur, etc.) and Indian (especially Urdu/Hindi and Punjabi) languages. The world famous Taj Mahal bears testimony to the Persian linguistic, cultural and architectural influence on the Indian subcontinent.

Persian is notable for its rich literary heritage, with contributions from poets such as Rumi (mystic poet and the founder of Mehlevi Order, known as the whirling dervishes in the West), Hafez (famous lyric poet) and Omar Khayyam (master of quatrains). 

Persian films from Iran have received accolades at film festivals around the globe and bagged numerous awards including two Oscars (A Separation (2011)  and The Salesman (2016), both directed by Asghar Farhadi).

Why Study Persian at KU?

Learning Persian will give you deeper insights into a region of the world too little understood in the United States. The Persian program at KU differs from any other US institution in that students are provided with an opportunity to acquaint themselves with all the three variants of the language—Iranian, Dari and Tajik Persian used in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan respectively. Additionally, you have the chance to get involved in interesting activities on campus related to Persian language and culture: join the Persian language table for tea and conversation; attend the annual Persian Culture Festival; become a member of the KU Persian Club to socialize and organize Persian events! Persian is offered by the Center for Global and International Studies. For detailed information, please refer to the department's website

Courses Offered

Our Persian Program consists of beginner, intermediate and advanced level language classes, offering a progressive and immersive learning environment. Directed study is also available for students seeking proficiency in Persian beyond the advanced level, adding substantial knowledge of Persian culture in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan.



KU has several great resources for those interested in learning about Persian language and culture:

  • Critical Language Scholarship offers financial support and study abroad programs for Persian
  • Digital Textbook, available through KU's Open Educational Resources
  • The Ermal Garinger Academic Resource Center (EGARC) at KU houses numerous feature films and documentaries. Each year new movies are added to the collection. Students can check the digital catalog and availability of these movies online.
  • The Moore Reading Room located in Smith Hall has a large collection of printed materials related to Pesian philosophy, religion, and culture.
  • The KU Persian Club consists of Persian Language students as well as students from or interested in Iran and Persian cultural activities.
  • Each year the KU Persian Club, in collaboration with the KU Middle East Studies Program, Center for Global & International Studies and other KU units hosts the "Persian Culture Festival." The Festival consists of a series of cultural events that varies from year to year offering activities like film screenings, Persian music concerts, Persian Calligraphy workshops and other such events. These events are always free and open to all KU students, faculty and staff and the Lawrence and Kansas City Community.

Get In Touch

Razi Ahmad
  • Lecturer
  • Language Coordinator, Persian
  • Advisor, Peace and Conflict Studies Minor
  • Persian Language Acquisition | Iranian and Muslim Studies | Nationalism