Wednesday, October 27, 2010
It's PERSIAN, learn about it before you use it!
Let me start this by bringing an example. I'm not Chinese, Korean or Japanese. I've never been to either one of the countries. I've had my share of superficial contact with the languages and the cultures, but just that. I've never made any serious attempts at learning either one of these languages. And yet, if you write in all three on a piece of paper and show it to me, I can tell you which is which. I think most of you probably could... it's 2010 after all. It's the age of information, and with a tiniest bit of interest or curiosity, and 10 minutes [or possibly much less] of free time, you can gain yourself a general knowledge of just about anything.
So, why is it that the movie/TV producers of the current era seem to have so much trouble gathering a very general idea of what the Persian language is, and what it's supposed to look like, before using it in their productions in the most messed up way they could possibly manage? How difficult is it to get a correct and real piece of text to use?
I was recently watching the latest episode of Chuck, in which the heroes of the story are supposedly stuck in an underground bunker in Iran, and the mistakes that were made in this episode regarding the Persian [aka Farsi] language made me think of a rather lengthy list of similar mistakes in other motion picture productions. So, here I'm going to write up a a few tips / common follies that you could pay attention to, if you're going to use Farsi in your production...
1 - Persian is not Arabic or Ordoo. [Well Duh!] Even though these languages have a similar font and some shared words, they're completely separate languages. Just like English, German, Italian and Spanish are not the same language. So if you have people stuck in a bunker in Iran, please make sure that the stuff written on the walls is in Persian, NOT ARABIC! That includes you, Chuck producers! =P
2 - The Persian font has capital letters and small letters. Every word consists of small letters that can stick together in most cases, and capital letters that come at the very end of the word, separating the word from the next one in the sentence. You can't just throw a bunch of disconnected capital letters sticking back to back in a line and call it Persian text. I've seen so many examples of this exact mistake recently, what's up with that? One example would be this German movie I recently watched, called "Auch Lügen will gelernt sein". A friend of mine sent me this movie as a part of my German practice homework package. Orrrrr maybe it was just because René Steinke is in it... ehm... *cough* *cough* ;) Either way, the DVD came with a warning attached. Apparently my very much German friend who's never had anything to do with Persian [except for the existence of me] could actually tell that there was something severely wrong with that supposed Persian text used in the movie. So how come the producers of the movie can't figure as much? =P Come on!
3 - Persian is written from.... here it comes ...... RIGHT TO LEFT! Yes, most people give me such a surprised look the first time I tell them that.... I rather enjoy it! =)) =P So, if you have a piece of paper with a bunch of Persian stuff written on it and you want to make sure it's the real deal, make sure the empty spaces at the end of the lines are on the LEFT SIDE, not the right side. That includes you, German folks mentioned above! =P
4 - Iran and Iraq are NOT the same country, and they do NOT use the same language! Iraqi people speak Arabic! Iranians speak Farsi! This is also one very common mistake. A rather horrible recent example was the Lost TV series season 6 premiere, where the Iraqi character Sayid had an Iranian passport. Well not everyone can tell that a passport is Iranian just by looking at it, but as a producer you should at least be able to figure out that the writings on the passport are in PERSIAN, not Arabic. I wrote an article and included a picture here.
5 - Persians are a not very small population who have been scattered around the world due to obvious unfortunate reasons. There are Persian communities in most major cities in North America and Europe. There are also lots and lots of online Persian communities, forums and websites. So what I'm trying to say is, finding someone with a proper knowledge of Farsi, is the easiest thing to do. If you want to use Farsi in your production, just get one of us to write you up something proper, rather than throwing a load of letters on a page and calling it Farsi.
Well, this is what I can think of for now. Hope someone finds it useful! =)
P.S.: The above picture is not exactly your example of a normal everyday Persian writing obviously. ;) It's the art of Persian calligraphy, which I'm currently practicing.