The University of North Georgia has added a new language course to the school's curriculum with the addition of Farsi classes on the Dahlonega campus.
Farsi, also known as Persian, is a prominent language in the Middle East and is among the world's 20 most widely spoken first languages. It is the native language in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and it is also a Lingua franca, meaning that it is learned as a second language in order for speakers with different first languages to communicate.
Dr. Brian Mann, head of the department of modern and classical languages and department head of world languages and cultures, explained why UNG decided to add Farsi as a course, citing its usefulness to students in the Corps of Cadets as a deciding factor.
"Farsi has strategic applications for the military and for our cadets," Mann said. "A career military officer is more desirable and more likely for promotion if they speak the language."
Mann went on to further explain that the decision to begin teaching Farsi also stemmed from significant student demand.
"Arabic majors or minors and students in the international affairs program showed interest," he said. "Cadets' interest got us started, but civilian students are just as engaged."
Hassan Hussain, a UNG professor who teaches Arabic and the only professor who teaches Farsi, described why students should take the class.
"We have a very large Arabic program here, and it would really help the Arabic majors to have Farsi as well," Hussain said. "It doubles their employability."
Mann echoed Hussain's claims, stating that Farsi is in high demand in multiple fields, including military intelligence and federal services.
"I would encourage any student to take courses in any language because no matter what they plan to do, learning a language will help you with your career," Mann said.
Farsi is very similar to Arabic, using the same script with the addition of four letters. It is categorized as easier than Arabic, and it is not as grammatically complex, according to Hussain.
"The grammar is refreshingly easy," Hussain said. "The nuances of the language can take a while to get, but you can reach the point of speaking relatively quickly."
The Farsi class currently offered is a linked course, meaning that the students will complete an entire year's worth of Farsi in one semester.
"Because we started in the spring semester, an intensive spring course gets us back on sequence," Mann explained. "We can get it off the ground in the spring and be where we would have been if we would have started in the fall, so students can continue with the next class."
There are 14 students taking the Farsi class, mostly Corps members, but with some civilians as well.
Sara Bushey, a sophomore Arabic major and one of the students enrolled in the class, described her experience with the language as simpler than her experiences in Arabic.
"I got into Arabic because I didn't like Spanish, and now I like Persian," Bushey said. "It has a completely different alphabet, but once you get through it it's easier."
Jacob Hinsley, a sophomore Arabic major and another of the students in the Farsi class, explained that a background in Arabic does help in learning Farsi.
"An Arabic background makes it a little easier to learn," Hinsley said. "If someone really wants to take Farsi, I would recommend it — it's interesting."
The hope for the future of the class is that interest in the program will grow as knowledge of the classes spreads across the University, according to Mann.
"There are no tutors as of now but I am working on developing materials for the language lab," Hussain said. "One of the major language lab assistants is taking the class so she can help future students as she gets better at it."
Depending on student interest, more courses may be added in the future.
"If the interest is there and the students want the course, we will do everything we can to make them available," Mann said. "We do our best to respond to what the students want and what can help them get to where they want to go."