01 April 2009
A different Farsi (Persian)
One of the reasons I am aware of the need to be sensitive to the peculiarities of a language is my experience with Farsi (Persian). Although English was allowed as a medium of instruction in "foreign literature" classes, I felt I had to learn Persian to effectively teach undergraduate classes in American Literature in Iran in 1976. I took formal lessons in a classroom, taught by a male Iranian professor. Since I did not feel confident even after I had finished the short course, I engaged the tutoring services of a female Iranian professor (who, btw, following the custom in that country, was always accompanied by her husband, who quietly and patiently sat through our sessions). After a couple of months of daily tutorial sessions, I felt ready to give my first lecture in Persian. My students appeared appreciative of my lecture. After the class, however, one of the male students stayed to talk to me. "Sir," he said in English, "you speak like a woman."