Dehkhoda building from across Vali Asr Street

Dehkhoda Institute in brief

The full name for Dehkhoda Institute is Dehkhoda Lexicon Institute and International Center for Persian Studies, named after Ali Akhbar Dehkhoda (1879-1956). Most people use the simpler term ‘Dehkhoda Institute’. It is located on Vali Asr Street near to Tajrish in northern Tehran. Its name implies it has two main functions.

The first function is the compilation of a Persian dictionary started by Dehkhoda. As with any living language this is a task which will never be completed. By the time Dehkhoda died in 1956 his eponymous dictionary had received parliamentary approval and support, and thus became a national work. This work continues with lexicographers and specialists: new words are being added, and alternative meanings and clarifications for old words are found. It is the largest Persian dictionary available.

The second function is teaching Persian language and literature to foreigners, from complete beginners to advanced levels. Students of all ages and abilities go to Dehkhoda from all around the world to receive what is arguably the best Persian language tuition anywhere. Living and studying in Iran inevitably offers a better environment for students to learn and absorb the Persian language and culture of Iran. The two are inseparable in my view.

In both of these functions it is a part of the University of Tehran.

The Persian language courses at Dehkhoda

I will write up my whole history of learning Persian elsewhere, but it is sufficient here to write that I had previously studied Persian part time in London. I will also write more fully about typical lessons at Dehkhoda.

I studied Persian language at Dehkhoda full time for four terms each six week long, starting in January 2016. I began in the Intermediate II class and ending in Advanced II. The full time courses are 5 mornings a week, with set homework to be completed. At the end of each term there are exams. These classes were superb. I still have all my notes from the classes, and the text books. I took some additional courses such as spoken Persian (which is a bit different to written Persian), reading Iranian newspapers (which tend to use vocabulary in particular ways), and short stories (which are not too daunting by dint of length).

Reading Persian literature at Dehkhoda

The experience was so positive that I continued at Dehkhoda, and started to read (and learn to read) Persian literature. I attended two terms (these being ten to twelve weeks long, allowing for public holidays), studying Hafez, the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, the Golestan of Sa’adi, Molana, and general Iranian culture. These are introductory courses, but they are a big step up from Persian language. There is a lot more vocabulary to learn and absorb. In some classes there was set homework, which would typically be to read part of a text book or prepare for the next lesson. This homework was essential!

The Stories from the Masnavi, and the Twenty Five Hafez Ghazals text books are written by Dehkhoda staff Fatemeh Jafari and Iraj Shahbazi. Doctor Shahbazi taught the Hafez and Masnavi classes.

In March 2017 I returned to the United Kingdom, bringing Sadface and all my all my books and notes with me. I immediately missed Iran. A few months later I reapplied to Dehkhoda.

On New Year’s Day 2018 I returned to Iran and took two terms of Persian literature including Hafez, the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, Molana, and general culture. This time, better prepared, I made better progress. I could feel my reading had advanced quite a lot. I returned to the United Kingdom again in June 2018. And again, immediately, I missed Iran. There seemed to be a pattern developing here…

My experience of Dehkhoda has been completely positive.

About the author: Sadface