What Language Do You Speak?

What Language Do You Speak?

It is often frustrating to me that I never learned how to speak Farsi. Although both of my parents speak the language, being born and raised in Iran, the language that was taught to my brother and I was Turkish. Technically, it’s not actually Turkish – so far from the actual language that I would’ve struggle to have a simple conversation with someone from Turkey. The language I’ve grown up around is related to Azerbaijani, the language spoken in Azerbaijan; it’s called Azeri Turkic or Azeri, but people from Iran refer to it as Turkish for convenience.

While the majority of the country speaks Farsi, also known as Persian, the second most common language spoken is Azeri Turkish/Turkic and other dialects of Turkic languages. It is spoken more in the northwestern Iran, near the Azerbaijan border, such as in the city of Tabriz. It wouldn’t seem that speaking a different language would cause dispute, but some Iranians that know and accept Azeri Turkish as their native language have become upset, and here’s why.

In Iran, the students in school are only taught in Persian. While not an extremely pressing issue, there are some Turks that have become upset that they can not be taught how to read and write in their native tongue. They’re illiterate in the language they speak in their homes and communities. In one interview, a man was discussing an instance where he was asked to describe spring by his teacher. He grew up in a place in Iran where spring was especially elaborate, even going as far as saying that “spring was his mother.” He said, “I had too much to say, maybe my composition about spring would become an artistic work.” However, when asked to write on that topic, he couldn’t because he wasn’t able to describe the feelings and visuals associated with spring on the same level as he could in his own language.

There have been instances where the media has blatantly insulted the Turk/Azeri people, the largest ethnic group in Iran, comparing them to cockroaches and donkeys. The Turks have taken to the streets their concerns, chanting phrases “stop racism against Turks” and “My mother tongue will not die.”


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