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Do They Speak English in Iran?

Do They Speak English in Iran

Key Takeaways

Official Language of IranPersian (Farsi)
Percentage of English SpeakersEstimated 20-30% with some proficiency
Education SystemEnglish taught as a second language from primary school
Use of EnglishPredominantly in business, higher education, and among youth
Regional VarianceLarger cities have a higher concentration of English speakers


Iran, officially known as the Islamic Republic of Iran, boasts a rich tapestry of history, culture, and linguistic diversity. The primary language spoken in Iran is Persian, also known as Farsi. However, with globalization and Iran’s intricate ties to international communities, the question arises: how prevalent is the English language in Iran?

The Linguistic Landscape of Iran

Iran is a multilingual nation. The dominant language is Persian, but there are several regional languages and dialects spoken throughout the country.

Regional Languages in Iran

LanguagePercentage of Population
Persian (Farsi)53%
Azerbaijani and Turkic dialects18%
Gilaki and Mazandarani7%

As the table suggests, while Persian is the dominant language, there’s a diverse linguistic landscape in Iran. The presence of multiple languages has made Iran a fertile ground for multilingualism, which has extended to foreign languages like English.

English in the Education System

The Iranian education system places a strong emphasis on foreign languages, especially English.

  1. Primary and Secondary Education: English is introduced as a subject from the early years of primary school. By the time students reach high school, they have a basic understanding of the English language.
  2. University Education: Many university courses, especially in the sciences and engineering, use English textbooks. This necessitates a solid understanding of the language.
  3. Private Institutes: Due to the growing importance of English in the globalized world, many private institutes offer advanced courses in English. This is especially popular among the younger generation aiming for higher education abroad or international business opportunities.

Where and When is English Spoken?

While English is not the native language of the majority, its presence is felt in various aspects of Iranian society.

Common Domains for English Usage:

  • Business: International trade and business often require a grasp of English. Especially in larger cities like Tehran, Mashhad, and Isfahan, many businessmen and women are proficient in English to communicate with global partners.
  • Tourism: Tour guides, especially those in popular tourist areas, often speak English to cater to international travelers.
  • Media: Some newspapers and online portals offer sections in English. Additionally, many Iranians consume English media, including movies, music, and literature.
  • Higher Education: As mentioned, many university courses, particularly postgraduate ones, are taught using English textbooks or sources.
  • Youth Culture: With the proliferation of the internet and social media, many Iranian youths are exposed to English regularly, leading to an increased proficiency among this demographic.

Cities with Higher English Proficiency:

TehranCapital city with numerous international businesses and educational institutes
IsfahanMajor tourist hub
MashhadBoth business and religious tourism
ShirazTourist destination with historical sites

Challenges and Future Outlook

There are challenges that face the propagation of English in Iran:

  • Cultural Preservation: With the spread of any foreign language, there’s a concern about diluting native languages and cultures.
  • Economic Sanctions: International tensions and sanctions have sometimes limited the exchange between Iran and English-speaking nations, potentially affecting the spread of the language.
  • Quality of Education: While English is taught in schools, the quality and methodology of teaching can sometimes be traditional and not as effective as modern pedagogies.

However, the future looks promising. With an increasing number of young Iranians taking interest in global affairs, cultures, and education, the importance of English is likely to grow. Moreover, the global trend towards interconnectivity and collaboration virtually guarantees a space for English in the hearts and minds of many Iranians.


So, do they speak English in Iran? Yes, many do, especially among the younger generation, business community, and academia. While it isn’t as widely spoken as in some other countries, its importance is recognized, and proficiency is growing. As the world continues to interlink, the role of English in Iran is set to expand, bridging cultural, academic, and business gaps.