Persian

5 Reasons Why Language Learning Boosts Your Mental Health

Reading Time: 5 minutes

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to highlight the profound impact of mental well-being practices. We know that #mentalhealthmatters  – the hashtag has over 13 million posts on Instagram! As a language learning and cultural exchange social enterprise, powered by the talents of displaced and conflict-affected individuals, we believe in the transformative power of language learning — not just as a cognitive exercise but as a vital tool for enhancing mental health. Let’s explore how learning and teaching languages can benefit both learners and educators.

The Mental Health Benefits of Language Learning

Language learning offers numerous mental health advantages. It can significantly reduce stress, alleviate social anxiety, boost self-esteem, and improve problem-solving skills. According to research, it even delays the onset of dementia, making it a powerful tool for cognitive health.

1. Enhancing Focus and Reducing Stress & Anxiety

When you’re focusing on a specific task, it relaxes the nervous system. Learning a new skill gives us a sense of purpose and growth. A team of Harvard researchers found evidence that active learning is actually a more effective stress management technique than passive relaxation.

 2. Combating Depression

Practicing a new language can help distract from negative thoughts and help you feel less isolated. The practice enables you to build social connections, and provide manageable goals, all of which are crucial in combating symptoms of depression.

3. Overcoming Social Anxiety

Language learning helps individuals deal with mistakes and learn how to respond to feedback. By practicing speaking with a language partner, you develop and strengthen social skills. In time, you will become more comfortable meeting new people. Still afraid to speak your target language? Try some of these tips

4. Boosting Self-Esteem

Achieving proficiency in a new language provides a sense of accomplishment that enhances self-worth.

5. Delaying Cognitive Decline

Language learning helps delay mental decline like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Studies suggest that it can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by up to four years!

“A different language is a different vision of life.”

Frederico Fellini

The Unique Role of Refugee Teachers

NaTakallam’s refugee tutors play a crucial role, not only in educating others but also in benefiting themselves through the process of teaching. Here’s how language teaching aids their mental health and integration:

1. Self-Confidence and Empowerment

Teaching their native language allows refugee tutors to regain a sense of agency and self-worth. They feel empowered as they share their knowledge and cultural heritage with others.

2. Building Social Connections

By engaging with learners, refugee teachers build meaningful relationships, reducing feelings of isolation and fostering a sense of community.

3. Easier Emotional Expression & More Accurate Diagnosis

Teaching offers a structured way for refugees to process their experiences and traumas, which can be therapeutic. Afaf Doumani, a behavioral health navigator, emphasizes the importance of communication in mental health. She notes that speaking in one’s mother tongue allows for better articulation of emotions and more accurate diagnoses.

4. Cultural Exchange and Integration

Teaching their language helps refugees integrate into their new communities by bridging cultural gaps and promoting mutual understanding.

5. Gainful employment and a Dignified Income

Through NaTakallam, displaced and conflict-affected individuals are able to gain economic and social access regardless of location and status. 60% of our Language Partners report NaTakallam as their sole source of income.

“Language at its core is centered around people. Language learning by its nature is opening doors to new experiences.”

Kinda, Arabic Language Partner from Syria with NaTakallam since 2021

A Conversation with Afaf Doumani

Afaf Doumani, a Palestinian mental health professional with extensive experience working with refugees, underscores the critical role of language in mental health. With a master’s degree in social work and a background in developmental studies, Afaf has dedicated her career to supporting displaced individuals. She recalls her motivation to study mental health after witnessing the trauma of refugees following the Syrian conflict’s influx into Toledo, Ohio in the United States.

Afaf highlights several challenges refugees face, including the stigma around mental health in their native regions and the significant language barriers that prevent them from seeking help. “Mental health relies heavily on communication—more than physical health. Articulating emotions and sharing personal experiences are crucial for accurate diagnoses,” Afaf explains.

“Language is the essence of mental health. Explaining your feelings in your mother tongue is always easier—you can speak your heart. It’s about having someone who understands your culture and can help you articulate your emotions accurately.”

Afaf Doumani

Working with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Afaf focuses on MENA populations, emphasizing the need for mental health professionals who speak the native languages of their clients. She points out that the lack of such professionals often leads to mistrust in therapy interpretation sessions, where unfamiliarity with the interpreter can hinder effective communication. “Deprivation of communication undermines their wellbeing. I’m often the only Arabic-speaking person in the mental health field helping navigate and connect them to services,” she says. 

Afaf’s efforts extend to facilitating support groups for women and children, addressing cultural barriers, and promoting the importance of seeking help. “It’s about breaking the barriers and reminding people that it’s okay to ask for help. We meet them where they are, socializing and building trust,” she emphasizes.

Restoring Dignity & Celebrating Expression Builds Trust

Language learning is a powerful tool for mental health, offering numerous benefits for learners and refugee teachers alike. As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s recognize and embrace the dual impact of language learning: fostering cognitive and emotional well-being for learners while enabling displaced and conflict-affected teachers to express themselves, become more integrated in their communities, maintain and reaffirm their sense of dignity and unique cultural identity and build trust. 

Gain more insights and learn how to Stop Being Afraid to Speak and overcome your fear of utilizing your new language skills in our blog.

NaTakallam also offers Arabic for Professionals. This unique program created in-house by qualified Language Partners from conflict-affected backgrounds is a curriculum designed specifically for students looking to apply their Arabic language skills to their careers – from medical and humanitarian work, to journalism and business – and beyond.

Learn a language, make a friend and support the livelihoods of forcibly displaced persons – from the comfort of your home.

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woman displaying a sign reading "jin, jiyan, azadi" or "woman life freedom" in Kurdish

The Kurdish Roots of “Woman, Life, Freedom”

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Since the start of the ongoing Mahsa Amini Protests, which began in Iran in September 2022 after the murder of Jina Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Morality Police for not wearing her veil properly in public, we’ve heard the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom” travel around the world. In Persian this is “zan, zendegî, âzâdî” (زن, زندگی, آزادی), but the slogan originates in the Kurdish language and the Kurdish struggle for autonomy.

The fight for women’s rights has long been intertwined with the Kurdish independence movement. The Kurdistan Free Women’s Union was established in 1995, and in the same year the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), which had been co-founded in 1978 by a woman, Sakine Cansız, decided to promote the establishment of more independent female political, cultural, and economic organizations. These establishments were part of broader trends in Kurdish society and the liberalization of  Kurdish views on women’s roles. Abdullah Öcalan, also a co-founder of the PKK, theorized that the subjugation of women is the root of all other types of oppression and that society cannot exist in freedom unless women are free.

woman displaying a sign reading "jin, jiyan, azadi" or "woman life freedom" in Kurdish

In 1998, on International Women’s Day, the “Ideology of Women’s Liberation” was presented (possibly by Öcalan, though this is disputed) as a list of principles for women to follow in their emancipation battle. It stated that women had to break free not only from old social roles and the attitude that supported them, but also from total autonomy and self-organization. The Kurmanji Kurdish slogan “jîn, jîyan, azadî” started to become popular just a few years later. Its exact origins remain obscure, but it appeared after the arrest of Öcalan and the Kurdish independence leaders’ decisions to prioritize women’s rights as part of their movement.

​​In 2012, after the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, Syrian Kurds established an autonomous government that platformed, among other planks, women’s liberation. The Syrian Women’s Protection Units engaged in combat against ISIS, while women’s civilian organizations continued to address patriarchal attitudes. As more territory was liberated from ISIS control, women from various non-Kurdish communities joined in the movement. They not only participated in the Autonomous Administration’s women’s institutions but also established their own organizations to cater to their specific needs. This bringing together of women across ethnic and religious lines showcased the universalist potential of the Kurdish women’s movement.

It is the history of this Kurdish women’s resistance tradition that has led Iranian Kurdish women to play a leading role in the ongoing Iranian protest movement, which was sparked by the murder of Jina Mahsa Amini, herself a Kurdish woman, but fueled by the desire to demonstrate against the Iranian regime. The slogan “jîn, jîyan, azadî” soon became the rallying cry of these protests, a reference to Amini’s Kurdish origins, and Persian speakers quickly picked it up, translating it to “zan, zendegî, âzâdî.” Although other slogans started circulating, “zan, zendegî, âzâdî” became the most popular one, thanks to social media and the efforts of the Iranian youth in spreading it outside Iranian and Kurdish borders. A notable example is the song “Barâye…” (برای”, “for”) by Shervin Hajipour, composed of various tweets explaining why people were protesting, or the anthem “Sorôde Zan” (“سرود زن”, “Women’s Hymn”) written by Mehdi Yarrahi. Both of these songwriters have since been arrested and sentenced to prison.

This slogan has now been translated into many languages, as people worldwide have shown solidarity for the cause and begun protesting against the current Iranian government. According to the scholar Handan Çağlayan, “the slogan is attractive for its spelling and rhythm and significant for its connotations.” Jîn and jîyan are two closely related words, but jîn in this case should not signify a glorification of womanhood; rather it means “claiming and supporting womanhood as a valuable identity independent of manhood.” Jîyan symbolizes the right to life, and azadî, the right to freedom, “symbolizing the mutuality between womanhood and Kurdishness in women’s political participation.”


Catalan government leaders hold a minute of silence for Mahsa Amini and all victims of gender-based violence outside the Barcelona City Hall beneath a sign that reads "woman, life, freedom" in Catalan and Persian.
Catalan government leaders hold a minute of silence for Mahsa Amini and all victims of gender-based violence outside the Barcelona City Hall beneath a sign that reads “woman, life, freedom” in Catalan and Persian.

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goodbye in Persian

13 Ways to Say Goodbye in Persian

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Have you mastered saying salâm (hello, سلام) in Persian, but you’re stuck when it comes to “goodbye”? Well, here it is: learn 13 ways to say goodbye in Persian. This selection of phrases in Farsi and Dari is sure to impress your Persian friends ‘til you meet again.

1. Khodâhâfez (خداحافظ) — Across the Persian-Speaking World

This is the most common way of saying goodbye in Persian. Khodâhâfez, as well as its shortened counterpart, khodâfes, literally translate to “May God protect [you].” You can repeat the same phrase back in response, or simply mix and match with some of the suggestions listed below! One could also respond with be salâmat (به‌ سلامت), meaning “with [good] health,” in semi-formal settings or when replying to an elder.

2. Felân (فعلاً) — Across the Persian-Speaking World

This colloquial phrase is the Persian way of saying “[goodbye] for now,” and is usually used when a person intends to see the other in the near future. You can repeat felân (فعلاً) in response, or use khodâfes (خداحافظ), or try the next suggested phrase: mîbînamet (میبینمت).

3. Mîbînamet (میبینمت) — Across the Persian-Speaking World

Another alternative if you are going to see someone again soon is to opt for the equivalent of “see you,” which is mîbînamet (میبینمت), literally translating to “I will see you.” This is considered a more ”cutesy” colloquial term, and the same phrase can be said back in reply, or it can be mixed and matched with any of the other phrases marked as colloquial in this article.

4. Tâ ba’d (تا بعد) — Across the Persian-Speaking World

Tâ ba’d (تا بعد) is the formal/semi-formal version of the previous two expressions, and it literally translates to “until later.” An appropriate reply could be the same phrase, felân (فعلاً), or khodâhâfez (خداحافظ).

5. Be omîde dîdâr (به امید دیدار) — Across the Persian-Speaking World 

If you find yourself parting from a semi-formal setting with one or more people, you can say be omîde dîdâr (به امید دیدار), which means, “in hopes of seeing you [again]” in the indefinite future. The response could be the same back or, more formally, hamchenîn (همچنین), meaning “likewise.”

6. Khodâ negahdâr (خدا نگهدار) — Across the Persian-Speaking World

A more formal version of khodâhâfez (خداحافظ), this phrase translates to “[May] God protect/take care of you.” It is commonly heard among the older generations. For example, an elder may wish a younger person farewell in this way. A typical response would be khodâhâfez (خداحافظ) or, more formally, be salâmat (به‌ سلامت), “with [good] health.”

7. Khudâ yâret (خدا یارت) — Afghanistan

This commonly-used phrase in Dari means, “[May] God be with you.” One way to reply could be khudâ yâre tû hamchenân (خدا یار تو همچنان), meaning “[May] God be with you, too.” This phrase is also used in Farsi, though in more formal settings or among the older generations.

8. Panâhet ba khodâ (پناهت به خدا) — Afghanistan

This common Dari phrase means, “[May you seek] refuge in God.” The Farsi equivalent to this is khodâ posht va panâhet (خدا پشت و پناهت), meaning “[May] God protect you.” One would usually respond with salâmat bâshi (سلامت باشی), meaning “[May you] be well/healthy,”  a typical expression of gratitude.

9. Bâmâne khudâ (بامان خدا) — Afghanistan

Bâmâne khudâ (بامان خدا) is a common Dari phrase, literally translating to “with God’s safety.” It is the shortened version of the more formal be amâne khudâ (به امان خدا). The Farsi equivalent of this phrase is dar amâne khodâ (در امان خدا), though it is used in more formal settings and typically heard among older generations (or an elder bidding a younger person farewell). Khodâhâfez (خدا حافظ) would be a common response here.

10. Shab bekheir (شب بخیر) — Across the Persian-Speaking World

This phrase means “good night” and is used as a way to say goodbye to someone at night time or in the evening. When addressing elders or a group of people, one would say shabetûn bekheir (شبتون بخیر). The reply can be the same phrase back: shab bekheir (شب بخیر) or shabetûn bekheir (شبتون بخیر).

11. Shab khôsh (شب خوش) — Across the Persian-Speaking World

This is another way to say goodnight, though quite formal. When addressing an elder or more than one person, one would say shabetûn khôsh (شبتون خوش). It is common to reply back with shab khôsh (شب خوش) or shab bekheir (شب بخیر), or their plural forms in group or formal settings: shabetûn khôsh (شبتون خوش) or or shabetûn bekheir (شبتون بخیر).

12. Movâzeb khôdet bâsh (مواظب خودت باش) — Across the Persian-Speaking World

This phrase has very similar connotations to the English expression “Take care [of yourself]!” It is common to use môvâzeb khôdet bâsh (مواظب خودت باش) when someone is about to travel or experience a difficult endeavor — in this way you are showing your care and concern for what the other person is about to go through. The typical response would be mersî (مرسی) or mamnûnam (ممنونم); the informal and formal ways of saying “thank you,” respectively.

13. Bedrûd (بدرود) — Across the Persian-Speaking World

This is a very formal term for “goodbye,” originating in the Old Persian language. It is less commonly used in speech today, though still heard on formal television and radio programs.

Have we missed anything? Let us know other ways you say “goodbye” in Persian here! And if you didn’t catch our earlier posts on Persian greetings and different ways to say “I love you,” don’t forget to check them out!

Are you interested in learning Persian or putting your speaking skills into practice? Sign up for NaTakallam sessions with one of our native Persian or Dari native language tutors! Book a free trial here!

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Different ways to say hello in Persian

7 Ways to Say Hello in Persian

Reading Time: 4 minutesEver find yourself stuck, wanting to go beyond the basic Persian greeting, Salam (سلام)? You’re in the right place! In this article we’ll cover all of the different ways you can greet someone throughout the day, as well as some common responses to look out for. Like many Indo-European languages, greetings may change depending on the formality of a situation, so make sure to look out for context clues!

1. Salam (سلام)

Translating simply to “hello,” this is the most common greeting in Persian. Salam (سلام) literally means “peace,” and the response back would generally be the same. It is shortened from the original Arabic greeting salam-aleykom (سلام عليكم), meaning “peace be upon you,” though this full phrase can also be used in Persian in more formal settings, with a slight change in pronunciation: salamalaikom (سلام‌علیکم).

2. Sobh bekheir (صبح بخير) 

If this also sounds familiar, you must know a little bit of Arabic! This Persian phrase for “good morning” bears a significant resemblance to its Arabic counterpart, sabah al-khair (صباح الخير). The typical reply would be the same words, repeated back. Sobh bekheir is the singular form, used when you’re talking to one other person. To address a group of people or show respect to an elder, you would say sobh-e-toon bekheir (صبحتون بخير), to which the response could be the same, the singular form sobh bekheir, or sobh-e shoma ham bekheir (صبح شما هم بخير), meaning “good morning to you, too.” Among older generations of Persian speakers, you may hear another response: aqebat bekheir (عاقبت بخیر), meaning “good ending.”

Kindly note that Persian speakers from Afghanistan (speakers of the Dari dialect) tend to pronounce the word “bekheir” as bakhair, though the Persian script stays the same.

3. Zohr bekheir (ظهر بخير)

Meaning “good afternoon,” this phrase is also derived from Arabic. This greeting can be used from noon until around 3 pm, and the same words would be replied back. To address a group of people or show respect to an elder, you would say, zohr-e-toon bekheir (ظهرتون بخير). To this, one would reply zohr-e-shoma ham bekheir (ظهر شما هم بخير), meaning “good afternoon to you, too.” Once again, this is the Farsi pronunciation used in Iran; speakers of Dari would pronounce this phrase as zohr bakhair.

4. Asr bekheir (عصر بخیر) 

Moving on from the previous greeting, asr bekheir is used in the second half of the afternoon from roughly 3 pm until sunset. Translating more or less to “good late afternoon,” this greeting is historically tied to one of the daily Muslim prayers that goes by the same name, asr (عصر). The typical response would be the same words repeated back, asr bekheir (عصر بخیر). To address a group of people or show respect to an elder, you would say asr-e-toon bekheir (عصرتون بخير). To this, one would reply asr-e-shoma ham bekheir (عصر شما هم بخير), meaning “good late afternoon to you, too.” Speakers of Dari would say this greeting as asr bakhair.

5. Vaght bekheir (وقت بخیر) 

This phrase literally translates to “good time,” or “may your time be well,” and can be used as a greeting at any time of the day, similar to the English phrase “good day.”  The same words can be replied back. Meanwhile, in formal settings, when addressing a group of people, or when speaking to an elder, one would use the phrase vaght-e-toon bekheir (وقتتون بخير), to which the response would be vaght-e-shoma ham bekheir (وقت شما هم بخير), meaning “good day to you, too.” Again, tweak the bekheir to bakhair when speaking in Dari Persian.

6. Rooz bekheir (روز بخير)

Much like the previous phrase, the greeting rooz bekheir (روز بخير) can be used at any time of the day, as it simply means “good day.” To address a group of people or show respect to an elder, you would say rooz-e-toon bekheir (روزتون بخير), which would be followed by the response rooz-e-shoma ham bekheir (روز شما هم بخير), or “good day to you, too.” Make sure to tweak the bekheir to bakhair in all instances when speaking in Dari Persian.

7. Dorood (درود)

This Persian word is a formal greeting, commonly heard on the radio and television. Interestingly, this is the only word in our list of greetings that comes from Old Persian (also known as Avestan), which predates the Arabic influence on the language. 

Hopefully, you are now feeling more confident with your ability to greet people in Persian under a variety of circumstances! If you are interested in exploring what comes after the greeting, consider studying Persian with NaTakallam. Choose between the Farsi and Dari dialects, and work alongside our brilliant native language tutors from displaced communities, building bridges and friendships. 

Book a session today to kickstart your language-learning journey!

CREDITS
Copywriting: Gina Bagnolo.
Copyediting: Yasmine, Emmy, Tara, Mikaela.

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5 Ways to Say “I Love You” in Persian

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

As we count down to Valentine’s Day, did you know that another celebration of love – of women and earth – is just around the corner: the ancient Persian festival of  Sepandār-mazgān (سپندارمذگان), which is celebrated on February 18th this year?!

Although it was only recently that the festival gained popularity among Persian communities worldwide, Sepandār-mazgān was historically marked on the 5th of ‘Esfand’ (the 12th month in the Persian calendar) and dates back to the 20th century BC! Today, in Iran, this day is observed a week earlier, on 29th of ‘Bahman’ (the 11th month in the Persian calendar) due to changes in the calendar with time.

This Valentine’s Day through to Sepandār-mazgān (and beyond!), express your affection for a loved one with these Persian phrases.

1. Doostet daram (دوستت دارم)

It literally translates to “I like you” but is a common and widely recognized way to say “I love you” to a loved one, family or friends in Persian!

2. Asheghetam (عاشقتم)

From the word eshghعشق” (love), it literally translates to: “I’m in love with you.” It’s a much more intense expression of love used in both romantic and close platonic relationships alike!

3. Jigar tala (جیگر طلا)

Now this Persian expression is a truly unique way to address a loved one – it literally means “golden liver”! It conveys how vital you think they are to your existence.

4. Fadat besham (فدات بشم)

The ultimate expression of affection, this phrase means “I am willing to sacrifice myself for you.” Use this expression the next time someone says something super adorable that makes your heart melt. This expression is purely metaphorical and not to be taken literally in any case!

5. Eshghe mani (عشق منی)

Translating to “you are my love”, this phrase can be used in response to a lovely comment by a loved one. Derived from the word eshghعشق” (love), you can flip the expression around and add the possessive pronoun “my”, or suffix “-am” in Persian: “eshgh” + “am” = eshgham (عشقم) to mean ‘‘my love’’.

Other common terms of endearment include: azizam (عزیزم, my dear), asalam (عسلم, my honey), khoshgelam (خوشگلم, my beautiful), nafasam (نفسم, my breath), jigaram (جیگرم, my liver).

 

This February (and beyond), give the Gift of Language in Persian to your jigar tala (جیگر طلا) or take your love expressions to the next level with NaTakallam’s Persian sessions! At NaTakallam, every language session contributes to the livelihoods of our skilled tutors from refugee/displaced backgrounds. What says “doostet daram” more than that?

Ps. Thinking of Valentine’s Day gift ideas? Go beyond chocolates & flowers… surprise your loved one with the Gift of Language! Meaningful, impactful AND shipping-free! 😉

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7 Traditional Ramadan Delicacies You Must Try

Reading Time: 5 minutesRamadan is a month of fasting, prayer and self-reflection, observed by millions around the world. It is a time for practicing self-discipline, empathy and compassion. 

Those who observe it, fast from dawn to dusk. These fasts are broken by a meal after sunset called iftar (إفطار) or ftoor (فطور) and reinitiated by dawn with a meal called suhur (Arabic:سحور) or sahari/sehri (Persian/Urdu: سحری). The iftar table particularly is a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds, enjoyed by Muslims and their guests from all walks of life. 

Here are 7 traditional delicacies from the Middle East that you can spot on iftar/suhur tables around the world.

 

Ma'amoul1. Ma’amoul (معمول)


Ma’amoul is a filled semolina cookie popular in the Middle East particularly in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine. It is often filled with dates, figs and nuts such as pistachios, almonds and walnuts. It is also prepared in Egypt and Turkey where it is called kahk and kombe, respectively. The word ma’amoul is derived from the Arabic root ‘amila (عَمِلَ) meaning “to do”.

Basbousa2. Basbousa (بسبوسة)


Basbousa is a semolina cake, soaked in syrup, originally from Egypt. Today, it (or a version of it) is found throughout the Middle East (in Levant: harissa “هريسة”), the Caucasus (Armenian: shamali “Շամալի”), and in countries like Greece (ravani “ραβανί”), Turkey (“revani”), Bulgaria (revane “реване”) and Ethiopia (basbousa “ባስቦሳ”).

Qatayef3. Qatayef (قطايف) (also pronounced as ‘atayef)


Qatayef is a sweet dumpling made from yeasted batter and filled with cheese and nuts, enjoyed throughout the Levant and Gulf region. A recipe for it is found in the earliest known Arabic cookbook – the 10th century, Kitab al Tabikh (كتاب الطبيخ, “The Book of Dishes”) by Ibn Sayyar al Warraq. The word qatayef is derived from the Arabic root qtf (قطف) meaning to pick or pluck.

Om Ali4. Om Ali (أم علي)


Literally translating to ‘mother of Ali’, this is a traditional Egyptian dessert. Some call it the national dessert of Egypt.
Legend has it that it was first prepared in the 13th century at the behest of Om Ali, the first wife of Mamluk Sultan Izz al Din Aybak. It is a speciality at most Egyptian iftar feasts. 

A variant of this dish is found in the Jordanian and Iraqi delicacy called “khumaiaa”.

Luqaimat5. Luqaimat (لقيمات) or Zalabiya (زلابية)


Luqaimat
literally translates to “morsel” or “mouthful” and refers to deep fried dough balls, soaked in syrup or honey. This delicacy, sometimes also known as zalabiya (زلابية), is mentioned in several medieval sources such as Ibn Batuta’s travelogue, the famous ‘Thousand One and Nights’ (in the story of the porter and the three ladies of Baghdad), and in the 13th-century writer, al-Baghdadi’s cookbook Kitab al Tabikh (كتاب الطبيخ, “The Book of Dishes”) – where it is called luqmat al-qādi (لقمة القاضي), “the judge’s morsel”.

Variations of this delicacy are found in Iran (bamiyeh, “بامیه”), Cyprus (loukoumádes “λουκουμάδες” or lokmádes “λοκμάδες”), Greece (zvingoi  “σβίγγοι” or tsirichta “τσιριχτά”), and in Turkey (Saray lokması).

Zoolbia6. Zoolbia (زولبیا)


It is a sweet and crunchy Iranian fritter prepared with fermented batter, saffron, sugar and syrup. At
iftar tables, they are often found alongside bamiyeh (بامیه), the small donut-shaped bites. The Iranian zoolbia is closely related to the Arab zalabiya (زلابية), another delicacy prepared at Ramadan using fermented batter, sugar and syrup. Recipes for the latter are recorded in both al Warraq’s and al Baghdadi’s cookbooks from the 10th and 13th centuries respectively. 

Varieties of this delicacy are also found in South Asia (jalebi), North Africa (zlabia) and the Caucasus (zulbiya or zilviya).

 

Goosh-e fil7. Goosh-e fil (گُوش فيل)


Literally meaning “elephant’s ears”,
goosh-e fil is a deep fried pastry prepared in Iran and Afghanistan. They often come topped with powdered sugar and crushed pistachios and are in many ways similar to the Italian dessert named crostoli or chiacchiere. They are particularly enjoyed around Nowruz (Persian new year) and Ramadan.


Learn more about these delicacies and their cultural histories with NaTakallam! Book a session with one of our Arabic, Persian or Kurdish language partners today to delve deeper into the world of languages and everything sweet! 

To all learners, language partners, and friends observing this month, Ramadan Kareem (رمضان كريم, “[have a] blessed Ramadan”), remezan pîroz be!

 

CREDITS
– Copywriting: Maria Thomas is a copywriter with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in art history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, powerlifting and going on hikes.
– Copyediting: Emmy Plaschy is a volunteer content writer and editor at NaTakallam. She currently works in communications in Switzerland. In her spare time, she enjoys polishing her Arabic skills, writing and gazing at the stars.

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Nowruz: A Celebration of Spring, Renewal & Resilience

Nowruz: A Celebration of Spring, Renewal & Resilience

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Nowruz is a celebration that marks the beginning of spring and a new year, according to the Persian solar calendar. The term “Nowruz” (نوروز) comes from Persian and translates literally to “new day.” Although the festival has its roots in Iranian culture and the Zoroastrian religion, over the years, it has been celebrated as a secular holiday by communities in the Balkans, the Black Sea Basin, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East and South Asia.

Nowruz is marked at the precise moment of the Spring equinox (between 19 and 21 March) in the northern hemisphere and across the various time zones. The dates and times of Nowruz over the next few years are as follows:

YearDate and Time of Nowruz in IranDate and Time of Nowruz in California
2023Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at 00:25 IRSTMonday, March 20, 2023 at 14:25 PST
2024Wednesday, March 20, 2024 at 06:36 IRSTTuesday March 19, 2024, 20:06 PST
2025Thursday, March 20, 2025 at 13:31 IRSTThursday, March 20, 2025 at 02:01 PST
2026Friday, March 20, 2026 at 19:15 IRSTFriday, March 20, 2026 at 07:45 PST
2027Sunday, March 21, 2027 at 00:54 IRSTSaturday, March 20, 2027 at 13:24 PST
Dates and times of Nowruz in two time zones where it is often celebrated, 2023-2027. Note that times given do not adjust for Daylight Saving Time.

This blog explores the significance of Nowruz to individuals and communities that have faced displacement over the years. It delves into rituals, food and memories that are kept alive despite turmoil, separation, perilous journeys and novel circumstances. In our exploration, we are joined by six Language Partners at NaTakallam who celebrate Nowruz and have experienced displacement.

Nowruz, a Celebration of Nature in Spring

Nowruz is a celebration of a new day and a new life,” reflects Sayed Nabi, an Afghan Language Partner at NaTakallam, as he fondly recollects celebrating the festival out in parks with family and friends as a child growing up in Afghanistan.

Nowruz marks the renewal of life in nature during spring, so parks, the countryside and forests have a special place in Nowruz festivities. Families join friends and neighbors outdoors, particularly on the final day of Nowruz celebrations, called zdah bedar (سیزده بدر, literally “the thirteenth outdoors”) to reconnect with nature and imbibe its renewed vigor.

Marwan, a Kurdish Language Partner with NaTakallam, shares his memories of celebrating Nowruz in nature with family and friends. He recounts, “While adults were on the green meadows singing folk songs, accompanied by the strumming of a tenbûr (تنبور) player and dancing in big circles, children played hide and seek or waited for their turn to get in on a small rust-covered so-called ferris wheel.” Similarly, a Kurdish Language Partner from Syria (who would like to remain anonymous) reminisces waking up at 5 a.m. to prepare to travel to the countryside, wearing traditional Kurdish clothes where they sang, danced and watched speeches and plays late into the night. 

Sabzeh_Nowruz_Persian_New_Year_HaftSeen_Table_SpreadAn Iranian Language Partner with NaTakallam (who would also prefer to remain anonymous) points out that although their refugee/migrant-experience(s) have curbed traditional Nowruz celebrations, being out in nature is still central to their family’s observance of the festival: “On the last day of festivities, i.e., on sîzdah bedar, all of the family spend the day in the open fields, parks or riversides to picnic; playing games, making music and dancing, taking with them the sabzeh (سبزه, “sprouts”; see the section on the haft sîn table below) to give them back to nature by throwing them into the river.”

Nowruz Preparations and the Haft Sîn Table

Nowruz celebrations and their preparations can span days. As the aforementioned Iranian Language Partner relates, it usually begins with “a scrupulous cleaning of the house and growing of sabzeh (sprouted wheat, barley or lentils) in a dish.

Sadiqa Sultani, an Afghan Language Partner with NaTakallam, shares: “My family and I started our preparation for the festivities weeks beforehand. We clean our homes from top to bottom, including carpets, windows and curtains. Everyone in the family helps out. Anything broken is repaired or replaced and the house is decorated with flowers. By doing this spring cleaning, we wash away the bad things from the previous year and prepare for better things to come in the new year.”

Nowruz_Persian_New_Year_HaftSeen_Table_SpreadApart from cleaning and preparing food, the haft sîn (هفت سین, “seven [letter] sîns”) table spread for the night of Nowruz is a key component of the celebrations. Sadiqa describes her family’s haft sîn table as follows:

We prepare a special table in our homes where we place small dishes holding seven symbolic foods and spices. The names of these foods all start with the letter ‘sîn’ (س, which makes the /s/ sound in Persian) and so the table is called the ‘seven sîns’ (haft sîn). The dishes generally contain wheat or bean sprouts (sabzeh), vinegar (سرکه, serke), apples (سیب, sîb), garlic (سیر, sîr), a wheat-based pudding called samanû (سمنو), the red spice called sumac (سماق, sumâG), and senjed (سنجد), a kind of wild fruit which is common in the region. Other symbolic objects can include goldfish, painted eggs, candles and a mirror. The seven sîns symbolize life, love, health and prosperity.”

Alongside the delicacies on the haft sîn table, a variety of other dishes are prepared and enjoyed over the days of Nowruz celebrations. Leila Eftetahi, an Iranian Language Partner with NaTakallam, shares that her favorite dish to have on Nowruz is sabze palû bâ mâhî (سبزی پلو با ماهی, herbed rice and fish). The Kurdish Language Partner (who would like to remain anonymous) shares that mahshi is a popular dish enjoyed during Nowruz among Iraqi-Kurdish communities. And Sadiqa tells us that her favorite Nowruz food item is the afore-mentioned samanû, “a sweet paste made entirely from germinated wheat, which is prepared especially for Nowruz in a large pot.”

Nowruz and the Refugee/Migrant Experience(s)

Nowruz celebrations among communities affected by conflict and displacement have an added meaning today. Nowruz celebrates resilience — of both nature and human beings. 

The aforementioned anonymous Iranian Language Partner shares, “The usual family links and networks do not exist anymore for many exiles or immigrants … In spite of these and other obstacles, Iranians who live abroad try to observe Nowruz traditions and rituals.” These sentiments are echoed by Sadiqa, who says that “living as refugees, not having access to basic rights and having very few facilities, people prepare a small table just to celebrate Nowruz with their family. Something that hasn’t changed is the way and reason for celebrating Nowruz. People spread love and happiness as much as they can.’’ 

Nowruz_Persian_New_Year_Sizdah_BedarSharing happiness and keeping alive memories of “cozy fellowship” has been an important part of Marwan’s recent Nowruz celebrations. He reveals that he is looking forward to celebrating Nowruz with his small family “outdoors in a nearby playground and then indoors, dining locally, listening to Kurdish songs in Kurdish-hyggelig ambiance.” Leila, similarly, shares that she has never forgotten the excitement of getting to pick the tablecloth for the haft sîn table as a child. She honors this memory by continuing to pick a tablecloth for the haft sîn table as a tradition, even after being away from home for the last seven years.

Nowruz is a celebration of nature and new beginnings. Over the years, it has also come to commemorate human resilience and the quest for fellowship and happiness even in the face of adversity and displacement. 

Happy first day of spring to our language partners, language learners, friends and supporters and all those celebrating. Sâl-e no mobârak (سال نو مبارک) and Newroza te pîroz be — Happy Nowruz! 

Fascinated by Nowruz? Learn more about Persian and Kurdish cultures, traditions and languages with NaTakallam’s native-speaking tutors from displaced and conflict-affected backgrounds. Sign up for a FREE trial today! 

Learn a language, make a friend, change a life. 


CREDITS
Copywriting: Maria Thomas is a copywriter with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in art history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, powerlifting and going on hikes.
Copyediting: Lucy Davis is a Communications and PR Officer with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing a dual Bachelor’s degree in economics and literature. She loves cooking, doing puzzles, and traveling to new places. Mikaela Bell is also a Communications Officer with NaTakallam who also works as a freelance writer and editor.
Content support 1: Leila Eftetahi is an Iranian Language Partner with NaTakallam teaching Persian – Farsi dialect. She has degrees in Computer Science and International Tourism, and has been working as a Community Engagement Specialist. Leila enjoys performing, watching movies and reading in her free time.
Content support 2: Sadiqa Sultani is an Afghan Language Partner with NaTakallam teaching Persian – Dari dialect. She is an active volunteer at her local Refugee Learning Centre and in the refugee community. She loves sharing her culture and in her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and writing in her journal.
Content support 3: Sayed Nabi is an Afghan Language Partner with NaTakallam teaching Persian – Farsi and Dari dialects. He studied French language and literature and worked as an interpreter & translator with ISAF/NATO and AFRANE. He loves Persian poetry, is interested in cultural exchange, and eager to share his experiences with students.
Content support 4: Marwan Sheikho is Syrian Language Partner with NaTakallam specializing in Kurdish – Kurmanji dialect. He studied the development of Kurdish Kurmanji in Turkey and Syria for his Master’s degree in Germany. He enjoys learning languages, photography and preparing Kurdish language learning material for kids.
– And TWO OTHER content supporters who would like to remain anonymous.

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One story of cross-border love from our Afghan tutor, Sadiqa

Reading Time: 2 minutesSince February is the month of love, we put out a call to our conversation partner community to tell us their stories of love and romance. Sadiqa, one of our tutors from Afghanistan, shared the story below

Sadiqa Sultani, one of NaTakallam’s Dari instructors, is originally from Afghanistan. She had moved to Quetta, Pakistan with her family when she was young to escape the Taliban rule, but soon after, they were forced to leave Pakistan due to persecution based on their ethnic and religious identities, rendering her double displaced.

Now living as a refugee in Bogor, Indonesia, Sadiqa is a volunteer teacher within the local refugee community. She tries to give her refugee students something meaningful to do as they wait out the resettlement process. She also teaches students on the other side of the world online through NaTakallam. 

One morning in October 2018, Sadiqa saw she had received a message from a man named Naeem Royan, a long-lost classmate of hers from her days in Quetta. In his love letter, Naeem wrote that he had loved her since primary school and had searched for her for eight years.

At first, she didn’t believe him! 

Sadiqa was waiting to go back to Pakistan, but she was still in Indonesia because of the slow resettlement process. She began chatting with Naeem online, getting to know each other after so many years apart and slowly falling in love…

When Naeem proposed, Sadiqa had a big decision to make.

Was he serious? Sadiqa wasn’t sure. She discussed the proposal with her parents. She spent more time talking to Naeem before making any decision, as she still didn’t know him very well. Naeem was trying very hard to make her feel his love and respect for her, never missing a single chance to express his feelings and thoughts. 

Finally, Sadiqa said YES and accepted his proposal. 

However, there were many challenges in store for the two lovers. As Sadiqa could not go back to Pakistan, Naeem decided to come to Indonesia. Just as he was planning his trip, the coronavirus pandemic struck, and the world went on lockdown. By this time, Sadiqa and Naeem had been in a relationship for more than three years and were still unable to be together. Last month, they were Nikahfied (married) in an online ceremony. 

They love each other dearly and unconditionally. These two lovers have been able to stand and be together through so many ups and downs. They are still searching for any possible way to start living together and bridge the forced divide between them, just praying and hoping to be together soon.

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How People Express Laughter in Different Languages

Reading Time: 4 minutesLaughter is a universal yet culturally-tinted phenomenon. It draws people together and has the power to stimulate physical, emotional, psychological and social changes. Ever wondered how people from different cultures conveyed laughter and humor? Join us as we explore laughter and humor in five different language-cultures!

1. PERSIAN

In Persian, laughter is transcribed as either خخخخخ (khkhkhkhkh), ههههه (hahahahaha), or هاهاهاها (ha ha ha ha). 

Central to Persian popular humor is the figure of Mulla Nasruddin Khodja. Born in Seljuk Sultanate of Rum in the 13th century, Khodja was a philosopher and a wise man who imparted his wisdom through witty jokes and funny tales. A famous Khodja tale that Persian-speakers (and others) chuckled to over generations goes as follows: 

Mulla had lost his ring in the living room. He searched for it for a while, but since he could not find it, he went out into the yard and began to look there. His wife, who saw what he was doing, asked: “Mulla, you lost your ring in the room, why are you looking for it in the yard?” Mulla stroked his beard and said: “The room is too dark and I can’t see very well. I came out to the courtyard to look for my ring because there is much more light out here”.

2. ARABIC

In Arabic, laughter is written as ههههه (hhhhh or hahahaha), هاهاها (hā hā hā), or even هع هع هع (ha’ ha’ ha’). 

Like Mulla Nasruddin Khodja in the Persian-speaking world, Arabic-speaking countries too have a popular figure who effortlessly combines humor and wisdom. Known as Juha, Djoha, or Goha, this figure first appeared in Al-Jahiz’s 9th-century book “Saying on Mules” (القول في البغال). However, over the centuries, the character of Juha was merged with that of Mulla Nasruddin Khodja. Juha appears in thousands of tales, always witty, sometimes wise, and other times gently absurd – a butt of his own jokes. 

In one story, a man sees Juha across a raging river. “How do I get across?” the man cries. “You are there already!” Juha shouts back.

3. SPANISH

In Spanish, laughter is expressed as jajajaja (hahahaha). 

The Spanish sense of humor is well encapsulated in Cervantes’ Don Quixote, a mock epic which satirizes early modern obsession with noble knights, ridiculous quests and chivalric attitudes. Published in two parts, in 1605 and 1615, it is considered one of the founding works of western literature. Humor in Don Quixote is subtle but sharp. Cervantes sets his story as follows, before going on to describe the absurd adventures of his titular character:

“En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, no hace mucho tiempo que vivía un hidalgo de los de lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, rocín flaco y galgo corredor.”

(‘‘Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing.’’)

4. ARMENIAN

In Armenian, laughter is transcribed as հա հա հա (ha ha ha). 

Humor, in more recent times, has been used by Armenians as a form of resistance and empowerment. The famous Radio Yerevan jokes are an example. Popular in the 20th century, these jokes took a Question & Answer format, mimicking that of popular series on Armenian Radio. 

When asked ‘‘Could an atomic bomb destroy our beloved town, Yerevan, with its splendid buildings and beautiful gardens?’’

Radio Yerevan answered: ‘‘In principle, yes. But Moscow is a far more beautiful city.’’

5. FRENCH

In French, laughter is often expressed with the initials mdr’ for mort de rire (dying of laughter) – equivalent to LOL in English. 

French humor is celebrated in cartoonist André Franquin’s Gaston, a gag-a-day comic strip first published in 1957 in the comic strip Spirou. The series focuses on the everyday life of Gaston Lagaffe (meaning Gaston “the blunder”), a lazy and accident-prone office junior working at Spirou’s office in Brussels. It is much loved not only for its perfectly timed comedy, but also for its warm outlook on everyday life.

Explore humor and laughter in different languages this New Year with NaTakallam’s native language partners! Sign up for sessions here or spread the laughter (it’s contagious!) with a loved one by gifting a NaTakallam session here – an experience like no other.

Gaston comic visual source: philonomist.com/en/article/innovation-smile-gaston-lagaffe

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5 Ways to Express Love in Persian

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

As we count down to Valentine’s Day, did you know that another celebration of love – of women and earth – is just around the corner: the ancient Persian festival of  Sepandār-mazgān (سپندارمذگان), which is celebrated on February 18th this year?!

Although it was only recently that the festival gained popularity among Persian communities worldwide, Sepandār-mazgān was historically marked on the 5th of ‘Esfand’ (the 12th month in the Persian calendar) and dates back to the 20th century BC! Today, in Iran, this day is observed a week earlier, on 29th of ‘Bahman’ (the 11th month in the Persian calendar) due to changes in the calendar with time.

This Valentine’s Day through to Sepandār-mazgān (and beyond!), express your affection for a loved one with these Persian phrases.

1. Doostet daram (دوستت دارم)

It literally translates to “I like you” but is a common and widely recognized way to say “I love you” to a loved one, family or friends in Persian!

2. Asheghetam (عاشقتم)

From the word eshghعشق” (love), it literally translates to: “I’m in love with you.” It’s a much more intense expression of love used in both romantic and close platonic relationships alike!

3. Jigar tala (جیگر طلا)

Now this Persian expression is a truly unique way to address a loved one – it literally means “golden liver”! It conveys how vital you think they are to your existence.

4. Fadat besham (فدات بشم)

The ultimate expression of affection, this phrase means “I am willing to sacrifice myself for you.” Use this expression the next time someone says something super adorable that makes your heart melt. This expression is purely metaphorical and not to be taken literally in any case!

5. Eshghe mani (عشق منی)

Translating to “you are my love”, this phrase can be used in response to a lovely comment by a loved one. Derived from the word eshghعشق” (love), you can flip the expression around and add the possessive pronoun “my”, or suffix “-am” in Persian: “eshgh” + “am” = eshgham (عشقم) to mean ‘‘my love’’.

Other common terms of endearment include: azizam (عزیزم, my dear), asalam (عسلم, my honey), khoshgelam (خوشگلم, my beautiful), nafasam (نفسم, my breath), jigaram (جیگرم, my liver).

 

This February (and beyond), give the Gift of Language in Persian to your jigar tala (جیگر طلا) or take your love expressions to the next level with NaTakallam’s Persian sessions! At NaTakallam, every language session contributes to the livelihoods of our skilled tutors from refugee/displaced backgrounds. What says “doostet daram” more than that?

Ps. Thinking of Valentine’s Day gift ideas? Go beyond chocolates & flowers… surprise your loved one with the Gift of Language! Meaningful, impactful AND shipping-free! 😉

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