Allison White began studying Persian because of a chance meeting: Before she started her freshman year at the University of Maryland, she wandered into an office and a friendly professor talked her into taking a class. But by now, she feels lucky that she got lost that day.
"I'm really glad that I took Persian," she said. What once seemed obscure now seems increasingly important, with Iran constantly in the news; the United States imposed sanctions last month amid fears of a nuclear threat. "It's really necessary in today's world -- and it's a beautiful, beautiful language."
The study of Persian is growing at U-Md., where students are speaking the language, reciting poetry by Rumi and other Persian writers, watching Iranian movies and, sometimes, debating the country's politics and its fractious relationship with the United States. The school hopes to add a major and a minor in Persian this year, according to Provost Nariman Farvardin.
That shadows a national trend. Interest in non-European languages, traditionally less commonly taught in the United States, has been surging, according to survey results released yesterday by the Modern Language Association. (MORE)