Translating Farsi: difficulties and nuances

Farsi or Persian is a language that is about to regain its place within the most important ones in the world. With its 110 million fluent its potential for communication, business, and intercultural exchange is undeniable. But the way from English to Farsi, or vice versa is not free of potholes and difficulties.

Oh Grammar

Farsi’s written grammar and spoken grammar may differ in certain situations. slightly different suffixes, slightly different possessives, and so, but overall we will face three main differences.

On the one hand we have word order, which generally does not pose much of problem: English tends to be a subject-verb-object, and Farsi subject-object-verb. Though at times, i.e. when localising a website or app, this can prove to be a headache.

On the other, Farsi does not have articles of any kind. Sure English has them, but they are other languages such as Russian that don’t have them either. In these languages the information carried by the article is normally easily understood by the context, by once again we may face a difficult here when the space constrains of a website or an app pushes us in another direction. But then, there is a twist to this informal language may have a stressed “-e” that functions as “the”.

There are many other small details that set Farsi and English apart, such the pluralization (in Farsi you may say “three book – سه تا کتاب”, because the number or adverb already tells us that it is plural.

Shapeshifting Characters

Farsi has one of the most exciting scripts in the world, and one the reason is that a character may shapeshift depending on its position in a word. So our beloved “E” may have multiple written forms depending on where it is within the word. We may thank modern computing in this one because most of the software are capable of telling which form should be written when.

Those Arabic loanwords

Translations may feel at times tempted to translate certain Arabic words to Farsi, but truth is many times they shouldn’t. Arabic and Farsi have been neighbours for a long time, and certain Arabic words are as natural in Farsi as هفته (/həftə/, week).

Translating to or from Farsi may present some difficulties that will make the work of the professional translator ever so colorful and interesting.

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