The six vowels and 23 consonants of Persian are written using a modified version of the Arabic alphabet with four extra Persian letters to represent sounds which do not exist in Arabic. Its Persian name is الفبا ‹alefbâ› , which is the equivalent of the English “ABCs”.
‹â› sounds like the o in the Queen's English pronunciation of hot, the augh in American English caught, or the a in South African English park. It is a longer and deeper sound than the short ‹a› (as in cat).
There are several different systems of transcription in use for Persian, and no one official system. This can cause difficulties when more than one textbook is consulted, and may lead an absolute beginner to confuse the different letters. There are too many differences to be listed here, but it is useful to be familiar with the most significant examples:
Some common differences include:
آ ‹â› listen (help·info) may be transcribed as ā, á, A, aa, or a. For example, بابا ‹bâbâ› may be written elsewhere as bābā, bábá, bAbA, baabaa, or baba. In texts where ‹â› is transcribed as a, the short ‹a› sound may be written as æ or there may be no written distinction between the long and short sounds.
Short ‹a› listen (help·info) may be transcribed as æ, especially in texts where a represents long ‹â›. For example, ابر ‹abr› may be written elsewhere as æbr and بابا ‹bâbâ› as baba.
چ ‹c› may be transcribed as ch or č. For example, چطور ‹cetor› may be written elsewhere as chetor or četor.
خ ‹x› may be transcribed as kh. For example, خوب ‹xub› may be written elsewhere as khub.
ﺵ ‹š› may be transcribed as sh or s. For example, شما ‹šomâ› may be written elsewhere as shoma or soma.
Long ‹u›, may be transcribed as oo. For example, دوست ‹dust› may be written elsewhere as doost.