Today, more than 120 million people speak Persian or farsi or iranian language as their first or second language. By the number of its speakers and its influence, it is the most widespread language in the Middle East along with Arabic. Major news broadcasters, like BBC, DW or Euronews, have Persian or farsi -language an alphabetic services.
However, having studied Persian for years, I can assure you that the importance of this language goes way beyond its political significance.
Persian is a language with an extremely rich history, literature and cultural tradition. Besides its huge impact on modern literature, Persian has its own prominent place in poetry. Khayyam, Sa’di and Hafiz are only a few of the major figures of this big family.
The first attestations of Persian go back to around 500 BC. Since then it has played an important role in the history of the lands between the Mediterranean Sea and India.
When Firdawsi – the famous author of the Persian epic – was writing his magnificent Shāhnāme or, the “Book of Kings”, the Persians called their language “Dari” (‘[the language] of the court’) or “Pārsī” (a later form of the earlier “Pārsīg”).
Later, people in Iran started using the Arabized form of the second name (“Pārsī”), which was pronounced “fārsi” (because in Arabic there was no ‘p’ sound).
Today, in Iran, they continue to use this version. However, in the English tradition, the language has been called “Persian” – the language of Persia.
After this, some English speakers started using the name “Farsi” instead of “Persian”.
This was done in order to distinguish the Persian of Iran from the “Persian” of Afghanistan (Dari) and Tajikistan (Tajiki).