Example of persians adopting engish

Iranian attitude to the West: Intoxicated!
Despite the state’s best efforts, Farsi is as Westernized as ever because acculturation is a way of life in Iran


Iranians’ yearning for all things Western is so prominent that there’s even a word for it: Gharbzadegi or roughly “West-struck-ness”.

Twentieth-century writer Seyyed Jalāl Āl-e-Ahmad wrote that Iranians are struck from within with “the disease” of being obsessed with Westernization. He likened it to wheat infested with sawflies.

This is why Western tourists are treated like rock stars on the streets of Iran, leading the bizarre episodes of Iranians asking to do selfies with total strangers because the strangers happen to be Western tourists walking down the street. It really is a little embarrassing to watch. I wanna kick them, to tell you the truth. Kick the Iranians fawning over the gringos, I mean.

Iranians are not anti-Western. Please get over it.

That’s why it is so weird to see Iranians portrayed as anti-Western in the media! Nothing could be further from the truth. They hate you? They’d lick you like ice-cream if they could.

Of course, people all over the world are intoxicated with the Western corporate regimen that tells them what foods and clothes and heroes are cool. This clip reminds me of what I see in Iran all the time: intoxication with the other at the expense of your own people.

Clip from the ingenious series Atlanta, developed by Donald Glover, S4 E10. Posted under Fair Use exception. Follow us on YouTube.

Westernization of the Persian language

You see the intoxication with the West everywhere in Iran, like in street signs.

Maybe in Quebec, Star Burger would get into trouble for choosing an English name.

Here in Tehran, the fast-food joint not only gets away with an English name, it pours salt on the wounds of the Farsi lover by phonetically writing the name in Farsi script.

Star burger fast food tehran iran copyright ali torkzadeh escapefromtehran com 9622
Estar Burger is also استار برگر in Tehran. Copyright Ali Torkzadeh

Never mind that most people wouldn’t know exactly where the words “estar” or “berger” come from. Quickly and happily, they add them to today’s vernacular Persian, a potpourri of classical Farsi (rest in peace), Arabic, French, English and other tongues.

In Iran, deciphering store signs requires the art of simultaneously reading Persian and some other language phonetically written in Farsi.

There are shopping malls in Tehran now where it’s difficult to find any Farsi names.


There are shopping malls in Tehran now where it’s difficult to find any Farsi names.

Even reading the newspaper has become a chore, my father tells me.

“I kept seeing this word that looked like ‘consel’ or ‘conosel’ and kept wondering what is it. Finally, I realized they’ve written ‘cancel’, like such and such concert was cancelled.

“They could’ve used many Persian words to say the same thing.”

Samsung, Panasonic, Toyota, Coca Cola, every world brand has its own countenance in Farsi script.

But brands aside, Iranians go out of their way to mix in anything else they can get their mouths around.

People who can’t speak a complete English sentence to save their own life pepper everyday conversation with foreign words.

“Maan voicemaileh shomah-roh beh mobilam deerooz divert kardam,” an acquaintance casually informs me.

He is saying: “Yesterday I diverted your voicemail to my mobile.”

Persians' adoption of english is widespread the menu in a fast
The poor soul who only reads pure Persian would starve in this fast food restaurant in Mellat Park, Tehran. Every single item is presented in Farsi-scripted Western languages. The prices are in Farsi but the meal numbers don’t go Farsi, perhaps for that extra touch of irony.

Iranians are enamored with all things foreign, particularly anything Western. Tourists quickly discover that from the way the locals greet them in the streets and boldly initiate conversation, even if they don’t speak a foreign language. Sometimes total strangers ask to have selfies taken with tourists they met seconds earlier.

The furnishing of their homes, the pictures they put on their walls, the luxury brands they put on display at every opportunity, the media they consume, even television news on state networks – much of life here one way or another originates outside Iran.

USA Today, American media, on Iranian state television. Copyright, Ali Torkzadeh
It’s common for state media to report and analyze foreign media in detail, night after night.

Yet Iranians can also be embarrassed at being fond of the West. Gharbzadegi (Persian: غرب‌زدگی‎) is actually a pejorative Persian term.

Bizarre sign in Parkque Melat, Tehran, Iran
Translating from Persian to English can go comically bizarre. Here “children’s playground” somehow became “childrens landspeculation”. Maybe someone’s acerbic joke about the skyrocketing real-estate prices here.

Iranian culture: attempts to fight “culural invasion”

You know, sometimes I wonder why I’m labeled as a foreigner here. At least one guy thinks I’m more Iranian than most Tehranis because of the way I speak.

“Every word you speak is actually Persian,” the friend tells me, “which is a rarity now. Most young people in Tehran are constantly trying to pepper in foreign words.”

The government has tried and tried to cleanup the language, a la Québécois. Businesses were fined, store signs smashed, countless man-hours spent by eminent linguists dreaming up Persian equivalents to foreign terms.

The computer is a RAW-yaw-neh in the government’s tongue. A drone is BEH-pod. Pasta is KHA-me-rock. Potato chips is BAR-gak. A toilet siphon is AAB-shoe-yeh. A helicopter is a CHARKH-ball.

All media and school texts have to use the state’s terminology by law. But it hasn’t made a difference. I’ve yet to hear someone say they browse the Internet on their RAW-yaw-neh or it would be cool to ride a CHARKH-ball. Social media posts frequently lampoon the government’s terminology.

Officials took solemn vows to fight to death the tahajomeh farhangi (cultural invasion) beamed into satellite dishes, “metastasizing” through one of the world’s youngest society’s. Half of Iran’s 81 million people are under 30.

Regardless, satellite dishes are present even in tiny villages and at least in the big cities businesses seem to go out of their way to choose foreign names, script it Persian and sometimes mix in some Persian history too – presumably to appeal to every possible customer.

Like Tourist Burger in Isfahan, with its depiction of the ancient Persian Empire next to Farsi and English of its name. See photo below. Cyrus the Great would roll in his grave – although he might be doing a lot of rolling these days with American evangelical Christians labeling Donald Trump as a modern Cyrus.

Example of persians adopting engish
Identity Abuse: Tourist Burger does Achaemenid. 
If the people who built the Persian Empire only knew where their artwork would end up. Fast foo in Isfahan, Iran

Ali and Saeideh plan their Iran roadtrips from their home in Mashhad. More about us here >>

Other dioramas in the category of The People of Iran


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