Adventures in Farsi: Kharbozeh


by sepideh

I don’t have the best hearing. I’ve always been just ever-so-slightly deaf. Not deaf enough for it to really matter (i.e., I don’t wear a hearing aid and medically, I don’t need one), but my hearing is such that I frequently mishear words and sound quite stupid upon repeating them.

So it should not really be a surprise that for most of my childhood, I mistakenly thought the Persian word for cantaloupe, “kharbozeh,” was pronounced “khargoozeh.”

So I pronounced it “khargoozeh” without really thinking about it until, at perhaps nine or ten years of age, I said it quite loudly in a Persian supermarket, in the presence of lots of proper Iranian ladies. Apparently my half-yelling, “Maman, can we buy some ‘khargoozeh’?” across the little produce section actually meant, “Mom, can we buy some donkey farts?”

Obviously, I blame my parents for this. True, I have bad hearing. But clearly, they must have been horrible listeners. Why else would they have let a crucial misnomer like this slide for years and years, quite literally?

Of course, from this experience and many others like it, I am extremely paranoid about making mistakes like this now. It’s a detriment to my Farsi language skills to be self-conscious about speaking Farsi, to be sure, but I’m far too old - and surrounded by far too many smart Iranians - ever to play off an error like that as cute. In fact, I think it is a huge liability to speak incorrectly when, for instance, I am interviewing someone and it’s important that they take my questions (and me) seriously, and that our conversation is natural.

So, what do you think? Is it better to make horrible mistakes in a professional capacity, as one perfects one’s mother-tongue? Or is it wiser to speak English, even in interviews with Iranians, which most subjects understand but which definitely does not yield the best answers from them because their best language is Farsi. I’m partial to the former approach, if only because it’s a question of access to certain subjects, and lately, the former has become my modus operandi because my Farsi is only going to get worse if I don’t use it. But I am curious about how other people would approach this issue, and if the poor Farsi is forgivable as long as the interviewer is trying.

(cross-posted on


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by Maria (not verified) on

Hi..well..i'm from Peru in South spanish is my native language. When I first went to the USA to work some years ago, I read a novel named The Kite Runner, and i loved it! So I was trying to learn the words in farsi, but i forgot them 4 years later. And I found out a new language, and I was really happy about and I want to learn farsi, but here in my country is really hard to find really good novels in english, and even harder to find them in a different language. So if someone can teach me some simple words like Thanks, or good morning and stuff I'd really appreciate it. An what does it mean the word i read in the novel that people call someone like Amir..Amir-jan, and what does Aghab mean?
And to share some experiences learning a differente language I can tell you when I couldnt tell the difference pronunciating Tong, Thong, and Thumb..or Butter form better..
One day I was at work and tell to my friend Gary: I just bite my THONG!! instead of saying TONG..I was so embarraced when he told what i've just I told him: Oooooops..sorry! hahahahaha..
Take care.

mash mandali

Good catch Mr. Etemad

by mash mandali on

Good catch my friend !!

And to Sepideh :


The best way to avoid a mistake is not to do anything at all !!

There is no such a  thing as to "learn" without making "mistake", so keep trying and don't give up hamvatan.


Sepideh Khanom

by Gholam Reza Etemad (not verified) on

I thank you for your article. But please be careful with this fellow Kourosh Sassanian.
He is not the nice guy that he pretends to be. He uses multiple names across the site depending on how he wants to treat others. If he wants to be civil, he uses "Kourosh Sassanian". If he wants to be nasty, then he uses other names.
Please read this blog by Bahmani (//, and some of the comments.



by sepideh on

G. Rahmanian: Great comment, and very useful tips! Thanks, I'll try some of these things and report back!

And to the rest - thanks for the encouragement and sharing your stories!!


one more

by Kouroush Sassanian (not verified) on

Sorakh = Solakh


che goftee?

by Kouroush Sassanian (not verified) on

Devar = Difal
Ghofl = Gholf
Moghanee = Monaghee


Language Proficiency

by G. Rahmanian (not verified) on

Dear Sepideh,

Get an interpreter, if you can afford it, until you reach some comfortable level of proficiency in Persian.

What good is an interview if there are lots of misunderstandings.

Now a few things on how to improve your ability in Persian:

When decades ago, I entered a college in Iran, I devised a method to correct my pronunciation and more importantly my intonation. I was an English Literature major and was determined to learn the language properly.

I found out I could correct my own pronunciation or intonation by merely listening to my own voice on a tape recorder. I came across this idea by chance.

I used to like to sing(I still, occasionally, sing.)and one day listening to a song in English I had sung on my tape recorder, I realized how horrible my pronunciation was. So I started using that same tape recorder to read texts in Englis and make the appropriate corrections when necessary.

Pronunciation of individual sounds or words usually goes unnoticed thanks to the context or intonation of the whole sentence or phrase. Many people who are more interested in the contents of your sentences tend not to hear your small mistakes.

Also thanks to the context in which setences or phrases are used and/or their intonation, we are able to make out what people are saying without hearing every single word or sound.

Some steps which can help you improve your language proficiency:

Vocabulary Building: Try to acquire as many words as possible by simply memorizing them.
Each vocabulary word is a symbol for a concept which is specific to the language you are learning. The more often you see the words in use used ithe easier they get.

Reading: Read as much as possible. Reading is fun and perhaps the most useful way of improving your speech.

Years back I developed a habit of reading all street signs and labels on almost every item I came across. A can of coca cola can become a great source for learning new words.

Listening: One good way to improve your pronunciation is by listening carefully to others.

We tend to stop listening carefully/consciously as we reach a certain level of fluency and our speech becomes more and more spontaneous.

This problem has given rise to a phenomenon in the field of Foreign Language Acquistion called, "fossilization." You may encounter many non-native speakers of English, Iranian or citizens of other countries who make tons of mistakes in English even with simple utterances. They stop listening carefully because they speak within contexts which make comprehension easy for them.

I met a distant cousin in Canda some years back whose English I had a hard time understanding. At the time, she had been living there for 17 years. She and her husband are running a successful business and she has no problem dealing with their clientle or suppliers. You'd be amazed to see how she manages to do her business transactions in English.

This can also happen to the native speakers of any language, thus the common mistakes which become acceptable as correct after being used repeated over the years by many native speakers of a language. "IncenAtive" instead of "incentive" or "pronOunciation" instead of "pronunciation" used by many less educated/attentive Americans. Or "mischivIous" instead of "mischivous" used by TV newscasters. Late Peter Jenings was one of them.

Songs: They can help you with your vocabulary, pronunciation and intonation. When you learn a song it takes years to forget it. And you never forget it completely. They are a good source for understanding Iranina culture in general.

Writings mails or articles in Persian and asking your friends or relatives to correct your writing.

Watching movies or videos in Persian provides you with a lot more than you could wish for in linguistic and cultural education.

Good luck!

Niki Tehranchi


by Niki Tehranchi on

was my big mistake when I first started learning English at the age of eleven.  It made for some interesting conversation.


__Where did you go last week-end


__I went to the bitch.


Don't give up.  Practice makes perfect.  Or at least passable.


Definately better to make mistakes than not to learn

by Daryush on

If you don't try the words that you think you know, you will not learn to speak. I believe all of us who are bi lingual have stories to tell. Thanks for sharing.

Alahazrat Hajagha

try to speak farsi even it is poor

by Alahazrat Hajagha on

Don't worry. for a long time I thought the word "homie" pronounces "homo", till one day I called my classmate "was up homo!" and he got furious. That day I realized it is homie not homo and I learned what actually homo means. SO I think you shouldn't be worry about pronouncing words in Farsi. Be brave and have confidence. You won't learn them till you use them.