language-challenged relationships
August 11, 2006 5:57 AM   Subscribe

I have been spending a lot of evenings with my boyfriend's grandmother who is almost 80 and speaks only Farsi. Any tips on hanging out with people in a language-challenged situation?
posted by tingting to Human Relations (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Let's Learn Farsi
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:03 AM on August 11, 2006

There must be a few movies out there in Farsi with English subtitles. Get them so you can all laugh or cry at the same time. :)
posted by bim at 6:13 AM on August 11, 2006

Body language is mostly the same everywhere.
If you use body language, and learn a few necessary phrases ("yes", "no", "where is the bathroom?","coffee with milk",...), you should be able to get along just fine together. You don't even need full sentences.
It served me well for 3 weeks hanging out with my wife's family in Brazil, with my very limited Portuguese.
posted by jozxyqk at 6:13 AM on August 11, 2006

Try cooking with her. Most kitchen actions can be pantomimed and there will be lots of smiling, nodding and 'ummm delicious' sounds afterwards. I've always found that being in the kitchen and cooking brings people together [unless you're a terrible cook, of course].
posted by tellurian at 6:20 AM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Persian food is great. Kashke Bademjan. MMmm. Zereksh Polo.

Cards? Backgammon?
posted by handee at 6:23 AM on August 11, 2006

Looking at family photographs together always works for me.
posted by different at 6:37 AM on August 11, 2006

Card games are pretty universal, at least poker and bridge. Chess actually originated in that area and is played the same. You get the idea.
posted by ChasFile at 7:10 AM on August 11, 2006

Cards are ok, unless she's very religious. In which case they are evil games of chance! And there are lots of very good Iranian movies...

cooking though, is where its at!
posted by stratastar at 7:18 AM on August 11, 2006

Look at a beautiful picture book together. Or make a family photo scrapbook.

Knitting? If she's not dextrous enough to knit, you could knit (or other inoffensive but productive activity) while she listens to/watches something she likes.

Good luck!
posted by amtho at 8:23 AM on August 11, 2006

Build a puzzle together
posted by necessitas at 8:29 AM on August 11, 2006

Backgammon is popular throughout the arabic middle east, but I don't know if that extends through persia...
posted by tjenks at 10:09 AM on August 11, 2006

When I was a kid, my babysitter was an 80 year old lady who spoke no English. We enjoyed watching TV shows together, stuff where words weren't important—specifically, Xena: Princess Warrior (which I think, at the time, was the #1 show in the world). Funnily enough, she also enjoyed Wheel of Fortune (she knew enough to get T-H-E and A-N-D).

You could also try knitting together, or some other craft project.
posted by hooray at 10:15 AM on August 11, 2006

Cooking and jigsaw puzzle sound great to me...
Here are some newfangled board games with very simple rules, but which reward repeated play:


Those are all abstract geometric games. For each, you would probably need a Farsi speaker to help explain them initially, but the rules are really very simple. These games will rely on her having reasonable eyesight, and the ability to move her own pieces, but they don't have any language-dependence, or representations of people or animals (in case there is an issue about that).
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:54 AM on August 11, 2006

Response by poster: thanks for all the ideas!
We have indeed been cooking together and I am lucky enough to be eating some delicious leftovers right now...mmmm!
posted by tingting at 12:28 PM on August 11, 2006

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