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Persian Language in Japan


When I was a student at Tehran University, I saw many International students from different countries in campus. Some looked like Asians, with straight black hair and slanted eyes, some looked like Westerners, tall with brown hair and green-blue eyes, and a few of them were black which showed they've come from African countries.


I knew they've come over here to learn our language Persian, and it was always interesting to me some people travel to Iran to study Persian and they love learning it. As we have languages like English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Urdu, Japanese, Chinese and even Latin being taught in Tehran University and some other Iranian universities, I know we have Persian language being taught in some universities abroad.


Below is an Interview with an Iranian teacher in Japan and I read 2 weeks ago. It was very interesting so I decided to translate it all on here (all rights reserved!):


Persian Language in Japan
Shahrzad Samarghandi
Radio Zamaneh


Kamyar Abedi is a Persian language teacher at Osaka University, one of the biggest cities in Japan. Mr Abedi is very much interested in expanding Persian Language and Literature and it's been 3 years he's teaching Persian to a group of Japanese students.

In an interview with this University teacher, he talks about his experiences and his contact with the Japanese and how much Persian language and literature is known among Japanese youth.

Kamyar Abedi: Each year about 20 students enter the University to study Persian language and these students finish the courses around 4-5 years or maybe 6 years. On average, each year about 60-70 students in different classes from the first year to the last year are studying Persian.

Q: After finishing the university and studying Persian language, which jobs usually these students do?

KA: After graduation because there are not many jobs in regard to Persian language, most of these students start working in jobs irrelevant to Persian language. A few of them, maybe about 3 or 4 ones might find a job which is connected to Persian.

Q: How's Persian literature in Osaka? For example do your students show interests in Persian literature?

KA: Not many people know enough about Persian literature. However it is known to some extent as well, because some stages of research is related to Iran or Central Asia and the Middle East and it's mixed with regions around Persian literature places. In the last 100 years, means the 20th Century, some parts of Persian literature have been translated into Japanese, whether directly from Persian or from English, German and other languages.

Q: We know the Japanese as tourist and travel-loving people and surely they like to travel to Iran very much and know the different parts and take photos. Tell us about your students, are they interested to have a trip to Iran?

KA: Yes, some of the Japanese students who have enough money come over to Iran every year. Some others travel shortly and some for a longer time for the purpose of improving their Persian language skills travel to Iran. To sum, Persian language students are very eager for Persian language and travelling to Iran. Also about travelling to Afghanistan. Though there's a war over there they go over there too. We have students who travelled to Tajikistan and even to Uzbekistan. These students go there and get enough knowledge of Persian language there.

Q: The Japanese are so much interested in travelling that it became a part of their culture. In your opinion was this habit among them from the past or is it a new behaviour in the Japanese' history?

KA: In my opinion this great interest in travelling has become more in the modern time. In the last 100 years the Japanese' interest for knowing other cultures became much more. Perhaps because they have tried to know the world better. I think in ancient times it was less, but I'm not very sure. At least about Iran it can be told in these 100 years the traveller memoirs the Japanese have written about Iran and the Persian language territory are not comparable to the old times.

Q: Although the Japanese are people who have seen the world and also they are economically developed, but they've kept their old traditions and they don't see them opposing each other. In your opinion what's the reason of that?

KA: I suppose Japan has an uninterrupted history. In the last millennium or maybe the last 1500 years Japan's history is very uninterrupted. Exactly despite other countries like Iran, Tajikistan and Afghanistan and in short the Persian speaking regions and other countries which become interrupted historically speaking. In Japan there's no such interruption. In fact the concept of nationality, the cultural concept of this country was very uninterrupted and maybe because of this they have strong ties with their traditions or some part of their traditions and these traditional behaviours haven't been vanished with today's world and still exists. While in many other countries they've been gone.

Q: The Japanese have much difficulty in learning Indo-European languages. Does your experience also show this? How's your students deal with the Persian language?

KA: In the first year it is very difficult. Especially in the first term you should work on phonetics very hard. Because some vowels and consonants don't exist in Japanese language and you should try much so the students learn them. Some are more interested and they learn fast, some learn slower and some learn really hard or they can never learn very well. Anyway they're far from Persian vowels and consonants but naturally those are more language-talented learn them well. The first year of teaching Persian to the Japanese is not easy at all, it is difficult but with the perseverance they Japanese have they learn most of it.

Q: When I was passing courses in Samarghand University, we had a Japanese teacher who had come over there voluntarily with his personal finance and taught Japanese to a group of students, but unlike our other Middle Eastern or American teachers didn't stay after classes to spend time with their students and know them better and have better relationship with them. I didn't see many Japanese in my life to have better judgement. How your experiences have been? Can you make friends with them quickly and fast?

KA: Making the acquaintance of the Japanese is not hard but making friends with them is. You are right, but I think despite we Middle Easterners, whether Iranian, Arab or from other countries, make friends slowly. We make friends quickly and might cut out ties quickly. But the Japanese get close to each other very tactfully, they think about making friends very much and after time these ties get stronger. Maybe they think longer than us. We think shortly. I'm not sure about this. Maybe I'm judging soon as well and making an emotional judgement. The Japanese think a bit farther.

The most important trait in the Japanese is their strange perseverance and that they're a united nation. They're modest and at the same time they're very polite and courteous. The don't show much willingness in friendships. In thinking and culturally they might be far away from the Middle East or Central Asia and other Persian language territories. However you feel the new generation show more interest to know the world and have contacts with other people, including Iranians and Persian speakers.

Q: Russian sociologists introduce Japan's society as male-dominant. What do you think?

KA: I think the new generations change these habits. Means you feel women's role in society is much greater than the past and maybe this analysis the Russian sociologists give is mainly related to the older generations. You don't have such feelings towards the young generations.

Translated by: Mercedé

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