Persian is the vehicle of a rich and varied culture which, in the course of its long history, has often extended beyond the borders of modern Iran into Anatolia, the Caucasus, Central Asia and India. Three modern dialects of Persian are currently the national language of Iran (farsi), Afghanistan (dari), and the new Republic of Tajikistan (tajiki). Moreover, Ottoman Turkish and the classical literary languages of Uzbek and Urdu have all been heavily influenced by Persian.

The Department of Near Eastern Studies offers instruction in both modern and classical Persian, and from the most elementary level to the most advanced. In the first two years (Persian 101 -107) students learn to speak, read and write the Persian of contemporary Iran. They are then ready both to take more advanced courses in modern Persian literature (NES 540), and to go on to the study of classical Persian poetry and prose (Persian 301, NES 539). Readings in advanced courses vary from year to year depending on the interests of the students and instructor. Princeton regularly sends students to summer intensive courses in beginning and intermediate Persian courses at various sites in the U.S. Instruction in Persian is complemented by a number of courses in the NES Department on Iranian history and culture, and the history and culture of the Near East in general.