map of the middle east with magnifying glass on Iran

Farsi or Persian? What to Know About the Language That Unlocks Iran’s Market Potential

There are many countries or regions where it can be complicated to figure out the proper language to focus on when launching a product or service. Iran and the surrounding regions are no exception.

More often than not, the question many businesses have is “Should my product be in Farsi or Persian and what’s the difference?” Success may depend heavily on this decision and a decent understanding of your target audience and their languages.

Here are some fundamental points on Farsi and Persian, and when to use them that will get you on the right track.


Which languages are spoken in Iran?

Iran is extremely diverse in terms of languages spoken. The primary languages used are:

  • Farsi (the national language of Iran), the natively spoken language of about 53% of the population
  • Turkic languages and dialects (spoken by 18% of the population, Azerbaijani is in this group)
  • Kurdish (spoken by 10% of the population)
  • Gilaki and Mazandarani (spoken by 7% of the population)
  • Luri (spoken by 6% of the population)
  • Arabic (spoken by 2% of the population)
  • Balochi (spoken by 2% of the population)


What about Persian?

Much of the confusion related to language choice comes in the references to Persian versus Farsi. To a certain extent, they’re fairly interchangeable. Farsi is a Persian Language, but technically speaking, so are Dari and Tajik. Dari is the spoken language of Afghanistan, and Tajik is the spoken language of Tajikistan.

Farsi, Dari, and Tajik are all Persian languages, meaning that in their written form, they all refer basically to one language (with minor variations due to dialect). Oddly enough, there is no written word for Persian in these languages. They use Farsi, Dari, or Tajik to reference the same language, but the names help differentiate between the regional differences.


Which language should I choose?

So, what does this mean for a business looking to cover the region's languages for its products? First and foremost, start with a deep understanding of your target audience and the associated geography. For instance, if your target audience is the whole of Iran, then your language choice will likely be Farsi as the majority of the population speaks it.

Farsi is the Persians’ endonym, or internal name, for the language. Specifically, it refers to the dialect spoken in Iran, which is slightly different from that spoken in Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

If you’re targeting Tajikistan, you should choose the Tajik language. If you’re trying to sell in Afghanistan, you will focus on Dari.


One size doesn’t fit all

While these tips can be relevant regardless of what markets you’re trying to reach, they don’t address the fact that you will have speakers of multiple languages in different regions, and the demographics will vary.

If your approach is regional, or perhaps you’re trying to reach a specific demographic, a more in-depth analysis of who uses your product or service might be required to ensure you choose the correct languages.


Learn about the Iranian market

In terms of Farsi and understanding the overall Iranian market, an excellent place to start is with some experts in trading in the region such as:

These organizations will provide valuable information about trade in the region and how to do business while taking the region’s political situation into account.

A thoughtful approach, including discussions with your customers, distributors, trade resources, and translation solutions provider, should greatly improve your chances of choosing the right languages for your target markets.


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