Iran's national language is Farsi (sometimes called Persian), although only about half the population speaks it as a first language, and many Iranians do not speak it at all. The various peoples of Iran speak many other languages and dialects, including Kurdish, Baluchi, Gilaki, Lori, Bakhtiari, Azeri, Turkmen, Arabic and Mazanderani. Some educated Iranians in cities also understand European languages such as French, German and English.

Farsi is an Indo-European language, meaning that it is loosely related to English. When Arabs invaded Iran in the 8th century, they introduced the Arabic script, which was adapted to Farsi with the addition of some new letters. Unlike the Latin script, written Farsi is read from right to left. Farsi has also incorporated numerous Arabic words into its vocabulary. Kurdish is another Indo-European language, while most other languages spoken in Iran have Semitic or Turkic origins.

Most Iranians greet each other formally and politely with the expression salam, which can mean either good morning, good afternoon or good evening. People addressing their elders usually include the equivalents of the words sir and madam. While holding hands or hugging is quite common between members of the same sex, it's rare between men and women who are not married or close relatives. When gathering socially, Iranians often divide into two groups according to gender.

English Farsi
Hello Salam
Welcome Khosh amadid
Please Lotfan
Thank you Hasebki
Thank You Moteshakkeram
You're welcome Khahesh mikonam
Yes Bale
No Na

  Did you know?
Iranians are very hospitable people and often go to great lengths to avoid offending a visitor or guest. The ta-arouf is a set of polite behaviours followed particularly when dealing with guests or strangers. A shopkeeper, for example, may at first "refuse" payment, but does not seriously expect a customer to leave with unpaid-for merchandise.