GW’s Persian program offers courses from beginning to advanced levels. Designed for both heritage and non-heritage students, classes help students develop their Persian language skills and cultural understanding through rigorous study and application.
In beginner Persian courses, students are empowered to practice their skills in writing, reading, listening and speaking. In upper-level classes, students analyze a wide range of media sources from the Persianate world. They learn to critically read, accurately summarize, analyze, translate and interpret Persian media in its political, social and economic context. Upon completion of GW’s program, many students go on to apply their qualifications in the fields of diplomacy, linguistics, intelligence or business, in the United States and abroad.
Questions about the Persian program or placement exams offered through the GW Language Center? Contact the Persian program coordinator.
Why Study Persian?
History and Context
Persian is an Indo-European language and related to major European languages, including English. Although it utilizes Arabic script, it is not related to the Arabic language. Persian is spoken today by more than 100 million people worldwide. It is the official language in Iran as well as Afghanistan and Tajikistan, where it is known as Dari and Tajik, respectively. Classical poetry, literature, philosophy, science and mathematics in the Middle East have all been significantly influenced by Persian language and culture.
Pathways to Careers
The demand for Persian speakers in Western countries is increasing. As Persian is considered a “critical language” by the U.S. government, proficiency is especially beneficial for students pursuing international affairs, political science, Middle East studies, Islamic studies, history and other related majors and minors. Students of Persian, whether they are enrolled in the Elliott School or another GW school, are also invited to sit for the Foreign Language Proficiency Requirement exam, a useful stepping stone to many international and government-related careers.
Persian Language Resources
Scholarships are often available to students studying Persian, including:
Students with previous Persian language experience who would like to place into a course must complete the Persian placement exam through the GW Language Center. Based on your score, you will be able to place yourself in a GW Persian course that is best suited for you.
"As an aspiring professional historian focusing on modern Afghanistan and Iran, I've benefited tremendously from GW's Persian language program. With emphases on strong grammatical fundamentals and current media topics, my courses prepared me to research written documents and to explore my work in detail with Persian-speaking colleagues.”
PhD '26, History