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daristaniFriday 04th of February 2005 12:05:53 AM
Materials for learning Kurdish - Sorani - Having posted an earlier message on materials for learning the Kurmanci dialect of Kurdish, I herewith give a (more limited) listing of available materials to learn the Sorani dialect. As brief background, Sorani is the so-called “southern” dialect of Kurdish, spoken by the “Talabani’ Kurds in Iraq and by most of the Iranian Kurds. Written in a modified version of the Arabic script, it is in a sense the more developed of the two major Kurdish dialects, since it has always been the “official” Kurdish dialect used/tolerated in both Iran and Iraq for Kurdish education and publishing, but it is spoken by a smaller number of people than the Kurmanci dialect I dealt with in my earlier message.

Books for learning Sorani are rather limited and not all that “user-friendly”. The only real “course” is “Kurdish Basic Course: Dialect of Sulaimania, Iraq”, by Jamal Jalal Abdulla and Ernest N. McCarus, published by the University of Michigan in 1967. The entire set consists of five volumes: a textbook, three readers, and a dictionary (more a glossary to the series than a complete dictionary). The lessons to the course use a rather awkward Roman-alphabet transliteration system, and the Arabic-script portions of the series use an older version of the alphabet rather than the version currently used by the Iraqi Kurds. It is not easy to use. On the upside, however, several cassette tapes are available, so you get some hearing practice. To my knowledge, this is the only complete introduction to Sorani available in English, and as noted above, it is quite awkward to use. You can order the materials from this website:

Another, much more recent, but also very awkward, book for learning Sorani is “Sorany Kurdish for English Speakers”, by Dr. Dr. Fereydun Rafiq Hilmi, published in the UK I 2000. 331 pages long, all in the author’s own Latin transliteration, and with an accompanying cassette. An idiosyncratic work, this book has lots of useful material in it, but the grammatical explanations will confuse you to no end unless you already are fairly well acquainted with Sorani grammar, which is quite different from Kurmanci grammar and, frankly, strikes me as a bit “quirky”. So while the Hilmi book may be useful for someone who’s already learned the basics, I wouldn’t recommend it to a complete beginner. It’s available from Amazon in the UK, as well as (from the author?) at

A similar compilation is the booklet and cassettes set sold by Audiodiscuss, entitled “Easy Way to Kurdish Language”, by Soraya Mofty. Again, it may be useful as practice for someone who already knows the basics, but it doesn’t really explain anything, and will likely prove extremely frustrating if you don’t already know the basic grammar. There’s a crying need for a good introductory textbook in English, but until it appears, it seems learners will have to struggle with the Michigan course noted above and then move on to the other items mentioned. (If you know French, the situation is better; see below.)

In terms of dictionaries, the now out-of-print “Kurdish Dictionary” by Taufiq Wahby and C. J. Edmonds, 179 pages, all in Latin script, is still very useful, and is worth photocopying from a library if you can find a copy. There’s a new Sorani Kurdish to English dictionary available, entitled “The Sharezoor”, by Shafiq Qazzaz, 601 pages and in the standard Arabic script with Latin transliteration, this is very good. It’s available via Amazon. English to Kurdish, there’s a small dictionary entitled Raman English-Kurdish Dictionary”, 795 pages but not that many words per page, available from Amazon UK.

If you know French, you’re in luck: Joyce Blau has written a very attractive, up to date, and systematic introduction to Sorani, “Methode de Kurde: Sorani”, 323 pages, which includes grammatical explanations, exercises, and some reading selections. It’s available via Amazon/France or Alapage ( In terms of dictionaries between Sorani and French, here pickings are slim: there are only two small “beginner’s” dictionaries, which may help in learning vocabulary but won’t be enough for reading most texts. These are “Dictionnaire Fondamental Kurde-Francais Dialecte Sorani” by Halkawt Hakim (317 pages) and “Dictionnaire Francais-Kurde” by Halkawt Hakim and Gerard Gautier (247 pages). Likewise available via Amazon/France or Alapage.

In German, there’s a large dictionary, “Woerterbuch Kurdisch-Deutsch: Sorani”, which I haven’t seen, and which is currently out of print. I’ve been told that a reprinting is planned for the near future, however.

All in all, as you can see, materials for Sorani are less developed than for Kurmanci.