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Introduction The Persian alphabet is one of the oldest, most beautiful writing systems in the world.

It is so beautiful that Persian calligraphy (see Figure 1 as well as the front cover) is considered an art unto itself, called naghashi-khat, and is displayed in homes and to decorate important buildings like mosques and palaces. It is beyond the scope of this workbook to teach such a delicate skill; it takes entire lifetimes to become a true proficient. But this basic introduction to the individual letters will open doors for you that would be closed otherwise, such as learning Farsi, Arabic, or Urdu, or just more fully appreciating the cultures associated with these languages. Farsi (the Persian Language) has 32 letters and is written from right to left as opposed to left to right like in English, and so requires a little time before you will feel very comfortable. Additionally, the alphabet is only written in cursive, never print, so each letter may have a different form based on where it is in a word or if it is isolated. Parts of the letter will go above the main line of text, and parts below; these are called ascenders and descenders will be referred to as such throughout this workbook. The last term you need to is connecting letter. A connecting letter is one which connects to the letter that follows. This is important because, while all letters may be connected to the letter before them, they may not be connected to the letters after them. Some of the letters would look identical to other letters if you connected them when you werent supposed to.

Figure 1: Naghashi-khat

Materials Many people find that graph paper is very helpful in learning the precise shapes of the letters when they first start out, and your writing will look much more Persian if you have a flat tipped calligraphy pen. You may do just as well, however, with regular paper, lined or unlined, and a normal ball-point pen. This workbook actually provides practice space for you you just have to supply the writing implement.

Process For each letter, you will begin at the right margin and work your way left. If you have a calligraphy pen, hold it so the flat end is at a 45 degree angle ( / ) to the lines on the page. It will feel strange for a while because youll be pushing the nib instead of pulling, but youll get used to it. When each new letter is introduced, you will practice it individually, and at the end of the book there is space to practice linking the letters.

When you are done, you should be equipped to look words up in a Farsi dictionary!

Alif: This ascender is the same at the

beginning of a word as it is when it stands alone. It is non-connecting. For its standalone and initial positions, start at the top of the line and draw your pen straight down. For its medial and final positions, draw from the previous letter, and then curve up.

Be: Be neither ascends nor descends. It sits

on the line and the dot goes just below the line. Give it a simple hook in its initial position is, and draw the medial position like a bottom tooth. Be sure to place the dot under the tooth in the medial position, and dont go below the line with be in the final position.

Pe: Pe is identical to be except that it has

three dots instead of one. Its important to note that these three dots are frequently written as a v or even a circle when writing fast.

Te: Again, te is identical to be except that its

two dots are above the letter. The two dots are written as a short dash when writing fast.

Se: Form this letter the same way as the

previous three letters, but with three dots above it.

Jim: Begin jim with a left-to-right tilty, then a

curve downward toward the right like a fish hook. For its word-initial position, begin with the same tilty, but then go straight left along the line to connect to the next letter. Its medial position, draw left, then right, the left again to connect. It often looks like a zigzag when written quickly. Add dots under the line after the word is written.

Che: Che is identical to jim except that it has

three dots instead of one. Again, note that these three dots are frequently written as a v or even a circle when writing fast.


Again, he is identical to jim and che

except that it has no dots.

Khe: Form this letter the same way as the

previous three letters, but with one dot above it.

Dal: Dal is a non-connector that neither

ascends nor descends. Its like an italicized, small caps L written backwards, with just a little hook to finish it off. Because its a non-connector, its initial position is the same as its isolated on, and its medial position is the same as it final one.

Zal: Write this letter the same as dal and add

a dot above it.

Re: Re is a descender, and when you write it,

give it a nice round curve to the left. Some people write it as a straight line at a forty-five degree angle, but thats a modern style and doesnt have that classis look that most people go for when writing this language. Re is a nonconnector.

Ze: Write this letter the same as re and add a

dot above it.

Zhe: Write this letter the same as re and add

three dots above it. When writing this letter quickly, the dots often become a ^ or a circle, although the circle is less common.

Sin: Write sin like a backwards w with a big

hook on the end that descends below the line. When written quickly, this letter often becomes a squiggly line, or even just an extra long, straight line. When starting out, though, make sure to maintain all three teeth.

Shin: Write shin the same as sin, but with

three dots above it.

Sad: Start by going right, and then loop

around to the left, and finally descend below the line with a hook. In its medial position, you have a straight line coming left into the loop, then up and right, and finally back down to the line going left. It frequently looks like a right leaning loop or a cursive e.

Zad: Write zad the same as sad with a dot

over it.

Ta: Start ta with a loop just like in sad, but

dont add the hook. The vertical ascender is added after the whole word is written just like dots are.

Za: Write za the same as ta with a dot over


Ain: Write this letter like a lowercase c

with a bigger c below the line. The initial position omits the descending, bigger hook, and its medial position is like a pointed loop. The point is important because it will get confused with fe without it.

Gain: Write gain the same as ain with a dot

over it. The point is important with this letter because it will get confused with fe without it.

Fe: Fe starts with a little loop leaning to the

left, and then a straight line that does not descend going left. Write the medial position like a little loop, and do not let the hook descend in the final position.


Qaf descends below the line in its isolated and final positions, but otherwise is just like fe with two dots instead of one.

Kaf: In its initial position, this letter is like a

backwards capitol L with a little 2 inside. In its initial, medial, and final positions, it looks a lot like dal, except that its a connector, and it has an angled ascender that is added after the entire word is written. Some people make this ascender quite long for a stylized effect.

Gaf: Gaf is written in pretty much the same

way as kaf, except that it doesnt have a little 2 in is isolated form, and it has a second angled ascender.

Lam: Lam is an ascender, descender, and

connector, like a big J in its isolated and final positions. Write it just like a cursive, lowercase L in its initial and medial positions.


Mim has a little loop, and then descends below the line. In its medial position, the loop hangs down, the opposite way the

loop in fe and qaf go.

Nun: Draw nun like a nest that descends a

little below the line with an egg in it.

Vav: Draw vav like a big comma with a loop

on the top. This letter does not connect to the following letters.

He: Draw he like a counterclockwise loop in

its isolated position. Draw it the same way in the initial position, but curve down through the inside of the loop to move on to the next letter. In its medial position, draw it like a figure eight which dips below and then goes above the line. Final he is a loop like a little snake head.

Ye: Ye is like a slanty s which descends

below the line in its isolate and final positions. Initially and medially, it looks just like be with two dots below instead of one.

Practice As you practice linking letters to form words, draw the dots or lines that arent part of the initial pen stroke after the whole word is written. This is like dotting the is and crossing the ts when writing in English. When you become good at writing, use paper without lines. Most people write as if each word were on its own, slanted line, so it starts looking like the writing in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Natural Handwriting aalefbyeh Frsi . the Persian alphabet . mrik. America . kabaabeh barreh. America . psport. passport . jorj. George . dandn. tooth . zhenerl. general . shirz. Shiraz (city name) . mehmn. guest .