Persian Transliteration Simplified

Posted by Rezwan Razani on Jun 22, 2013 at 12:10 AM

Our transliteration method, and our plan for texting domination.

“Transliteration” refers to writing the words of one language in the alphabet of another. We use a simplified form of transliteration on this site and on our magnets. The method is simple, easy, practical, and works great for text messaging.  Indeed, it is our mission to make this the standard in Persian with English letter text messaging going forward.  Join the campaign!

If you are looking for the approved International Phonetic Association transliteration methodology, we don’t use it. Here’s why.

Overview of Our Transliteration System

This post assumes you are already familiar with Persian words and sounds and is just an overview of our transliteration system:

Vowels - a, e, o, A, u, i

We use only six letters to produce vowel sounds (Click here for more on Vowel Sounds):
a - The short, crisp a in “cat”
e - The short, crisp e in “bet”
o - A short, crisp o as in “oh”, but without a “w” sound at the end. Keep it crisp, cut it off. Unless you’re ShirAzi : )
A - The long a as in “father”
u - the long u as in “glue” (or the double o in “ooze”)
i - The long e as in “ear” or “weird”. Note, “Iran” is “ear-on”, not “eye-ran” and we would transliterate it as “irAn”

The English language has five letters that are vowels, but HUNDREDS of vowel sounds (“America” - the “a” sounds like some kind of “u”! Uh-mare-ih-kuh). Persian, in contrast, is basically limited to six sounds. So, as long as you’re consistent in using an “e” as a short “e” in “bet” and “i” as a long eeee in “ear”, you’re good.


Vowel Combinations are Evil

We see a lot of people transliterate inconsistently, or with doubling of letters. A lot of people are tempted to use two ee’s for the sound we are using an “i” for. Yes, it seems easier at first, but Iran is with an “i”! If you can’t get used to it, who else can? At least the Fresh off the boat people get it. They pronounce “It is Amazing” as “eat ease emeyzeeng”. So - that’s the attitude.

And we prefer no double “aa” for the long A. Little “a” for short “a” as in “at” and capital “A” as the long “A” in “father”.

We got a lot of heat for using the “A” instead of an a with a dot on it (where is that on the keyboard?) for the long A sound. But there are many additional reasons to use the capital A system:

  1. It gives the English text a foreign feel, so you can really get in the mood that you’re writing a different language.
  2. Capital “A” in a word of all lowercase letters looks like a mountain, and your voice is drawn up, lifted, to “climb” the mountain and pronounce the long “A”.
  3. Having a capital letter in the middle of a lowercase word evokes Persian script, which has no “capital letters” per se. Instead, words are broken up and the “final” or “detached” forms of letters appear in the middle and end of words. These forms give the impression of “capital” letters, but they aren’t. (See Cursive section for more details).

Now, let’s do a little practice on the vowels, before we go on to the consonants. The key is to be consistent.

REFRESHER: a, e, o, A, u, i. Make sure to consistently sound out each vowel (as we have them in the transliteration line of our word magnets!), and you will have the word down.

maadar jaan haalet khoobeh? kheeaar meekhory? badam nemiyaad. nooshaabeh daarid? vs.
mAdar jAn, hAlet xube? xiAr mixori? badam nemiAd. nushAbeh dArid?

See? Our method is shorter.  Better for texting! That first batch is just a string of vowels. Extra letters.  Who needs them.

Persian language doesn’t even show half the vowels, so the less you use in transliteration, the more Persian the experience. It will help you get into a different mental zone.

Of course, if you’re texting, sometimes you’ll skip capitalizing the A. Maybe typing two aa’s is faster. But definitely i and u are shorter than ee and oo. And x is shorter than kh.

The x probably bothers you. I love X. Malcolm X. X-Prize. Xmas. Xtreme transliteration. We just don’t see enough of x these days. The “x” is a guttural that doesn’t occur in English, see “unfamiliar consonants” below.

As this system is new and unfamiliar, it may seem difficult. But ultimately, it’s easier. Trust us, we went over thousands of words and made magnet kits, and this form of transliteration lends itself to whole word recognition very easily.


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