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Lesson Transcript

Becky: Hi everyone, I’m Becky, and welcome back to PersianPod101.com! This is our Pronunciation Series. And this is lesson 1, The Pronunciation of Consonants in Persian.
Mohammad: Hi everyone, I’m Mohammad. In this lesson, we’re going to start with the basics — and slowly work our way up!

Lesson focus

Becky: That’s right. And the focus of this lesson is Persian consonants.
Mohammad: Becky, do you know how many letters there are in the Persian alphabet? And how many of them are consonants?
Becky: We talked about this in the All About series, didn’t we! Let’s see. The Persian alphabet consists of 32 letters, 29 of which are absolute consonants, and 3 that are conditional ones. This means that, depending on the word, they can be pronounced as consonants.
Mohammad: Very good!
Becky: [laughter] Thanks! The remaining 1 alphabet character "Alef" creates 4 different vowel sounds, but we will explain that all in the next lesson. Before we begin, we recommend that you read the lesson notes as you listen, so you can follow along as we talk about the sounds. Ok. Mohammad, would you name all 29 absolute consonants for our listeners?
Mohammad: Of course. In alphabetical order they are, "be, pe, te, se, jim, che, he, khe, daal, zaal, re, ze, zhe, sin, shin, saad, zaad, taa, zaa, eyn, gheyn, fe, ghaaf, kaaf, gaaf, laam, mim, noon, he."
Becky: Great, thank you! Now, in which order do these consonants compose a word with vowels?
Mohammad: Well, in order to form words, they have to form syllables first. And for every syllable, the existence of a vowel is essential. A syllable can be formed by a consonant + vowel + consonant. Or a consonant + a vowel, a vowel + a consonant, or just one vowel.
Becky: So two consonants can't be placed next to each other, unless they are from different syllables, or there's already another vowel in the syllable, right?
Mohammad: That's right.
Becky: Okay. Now let's practice the pronunciation of some of the consonants. Since there are too many of them, we'll only explain those with the same sound, and the ones with sounds not found in English.
Mohammad: Ok. First we have two letters which sound similar. They both sound like "T", but the one resembling "be" with 2 points above it - is called "te," and the other one is called "taa". "taa" is also called "te dastedaar," since it has a long vertical stroke resembling the shape of a handle, called "daste," in Persian.
Becky: Can you give us an example, please?
Mohammad: For example, the word "tars" is written with "te" and means "fear."
Becky: And it's pronounced like the "t" in the word "ten."
Mohammad: That’s right. Next, there are 3 letters with the sound of "s," which are called "se," "sin," and "saad."
Becky: They sound like the "s" in the word "simple." For example:
Mohammad: "se" in the word "mesaal" meaning "example," "sin" in the word "salaam" meaning "hello," and "saad" in the word "solh" meaning "peace."
Becky: OK. Our next couple of letters with the same sound have the sounds of "h," as in the word "house."
Mohammad: One is called "he-jimi" which sounds like the "h" in the word "hole", meaning "towel", and the other one is called "docheshm” or two-eyed he" as in "har" meaning "each". It can also sound like "e" when it appears at the end of a word, like "laale" meaning "tulip."
Becky: Next, we have 4 letters that all sound like the "Z" in the word "Zebra".
Mohammad: The first one is called "zaal," which is like the "z" sound in the word "ghazaa" that means "food." The next one is called "ze," as in the word "zard" meaning "yellow." The third one is "zaad" like the "z" sound in "zamir" meaning "pronoun," and the last one is "zaa" like "zohr" meaning "noon."
Becky: Our next letter is similar to the "r" sound in the English word "round."
Mohammad: That's right. The letter "re" is pronounced only a little more thickly or roughly than the English "r," meaning that the tongue is closer to the front of the inside of the mouth. Like the word "rood" meaning "river." Once more “rood.”
Becky: And finally "gheyn" and "ghaaf" are also two letters with a similar sound to the French "r." Since they're not exactly found in English, we'll talk about them again later in this lesson.
Mohammad: They have the sound of "gh" like the word "gharb" meaning "West," and "ghaashogh" which means "spoon."
Becky: Ok, so those are the absolute consonants covered. Please make sure you read the accompanying lesson notes to find more information about the pronunciation of absolute consonants.
Mohammad: And now, let's continue with the "Conditional Consonants" or the consonants depending on their sounds.
Becky: There were three of them, right?
Mohammad: Yes, there are three. Actually, one of them, "Hamze", is a character that can have two sounds, but both of them are consonants.
Becky: Whenever it comes after the final "he." it sounds like "ye" and is considered a consonant.
Mohammad: Like "khaane-ye" meaning "the house of," or "sho'le-ye" meaning "the flame of."
Becky: In other cases, wherever you see a "Hamze" - in the beginning, middle, or end of a word - it's considered a pause or a mute consonant.
Mohammad: Like for example the pause in the word "mas'ool" meaning "responsible" or "person in charge."
Becky: The next one is called "vaav" and is a consonant whenever it’s pronounced like the "v" in "volcano."
Mohammad: Yes. For example, the "v" sound in the word "vaazhe" meaning "word." In some words, the "vav" sounds like "o" or "u/oo" and is a vowel, which we'll explain in the next lesson.
Becky: And last but not least...
Mohammad: Our last letter is called "ye," which is also the last letter of the Persian alphabet.
Becky: It behaves like a consonant for sounds like the "y" in "yoyo," and is a vowel when it has the sound of “ee” like in the word "eat."
Mohammad: That's right. For example, it's a consonant in the word "yek" meaning "one."
Becky: Now we'll talk about consonants, that don't exist in English.
Mohammad: Beginners may have trouble pronouncing them the first time, but after a little practice, it'll become easy.
Becky: Ok, what's the first consonant?
Mohammad: It's the letter "khe" and it makes the sound "kh," which you could say is a mix of the "k" and "h" sounds.
Becky: It's pronounced like the English "h," but unlike in English, the sound in Persian comes from deep in your throat.
Mohammad: Like something is stuck in your throat when pronouncing the "h" sound. For example "khane" which means "house."
Becky: Ok, what’s the next one?
Mohammad: The letter "zhe," which makes the sound "zh."
Becky: Like the "s" sound in the word "measure." It's similar to the sound of "J," but the teeth don’t touch each other.
Mohammad: Try to say the English sound "j" with your mouth open. Like "zhaale" which is a common female name. [pronounce sounds]
Becky: Ok, and the next consonant is?
Mohammad: It's the letter "eyn," which is a mute stress followed by a vowel, and somewhat similar to the "Hamze" we learned earlier.
Becky: As a letter, it makes a sound between "e" and "o," but in words, it catches the sound of the following vowel.
Mohammad: Exactly. Like the "a" sound in the word "aroos" meaning "Bride."
Becky: This one might also seem like a vowel, but in fact, it's considered a consonant. Alright, and the last ones are?
Mohammad: The two consonants "gheyn" and "ghaaf" with the similar sound of "Gh," which we already covered earlier.
Becky: They're the ones that sounded like the French "r," right? You can create the sound by letting the air flow out of your throat while making the "g" sound.
Mohammad: That's a good way to explain it! Like the "gh" sound in the words "ghasr" meaning "castle," and "baagh" meaning "garden."
Becky: Listeners, we hope you're not too tired, since we have one last part of this lesson, and that’s about "Final Consonants".
Mohammad: First up, we’ll talk about the final form of the letter "he," known as Docheshm. It’s a consonant that will always be pronounced "e" when placed at the end of a word. Like the word "tappe" meaning "hill."
Becky: But it is pronounced as an "h" sound at the beginning of a word, right?
Mohammad: Yes, without exception. Like "hasht" which means "eight."
Becky: Are there any other points about "Final Consonants"?
Mohammad: Well, the letter "ye," which we talked about earlier, can’t be a consonant with the sound of "ye" at the end of a word unless it's followed by a short vowel.
Becky: If I remember correctly, it was one of the conditional consonants, wasn't it? So is it always a vowel at the end of a word?
Mohammad: Yes. Like the "i/ee" sound in the word "maahi" which means "fish."
Becky: This is all making sense now! Ok, I guess that’s enough for this lesson. That’s all about Persian consonants. We have learned a lot, but really, there are actually only a few sounds in Persian that are different to English.
Mohammad: Yeah, the first step is always the hardest. but you’ll master Persian pronunciation before you know it — as long as you stick with the series!
Becky: So keep practicing! And as always, check the lesson notes to reinforce what you’ve learned in this lesson.


Becky: That’s it for this lesson. Thanks for listening.
Mohammad: khodaa haafez.
Becky: See you next time!