Baking a cookie in Iran

Etihad Airways Lounge, Abu Dhabi

The Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani has a routine about the stereotypical views of Iranians as fanatics often presented in the Western media:

Every time they show us on TV they always show the crazy guy burning the flag going ‘Death to America!’ Just once I wish they would show us, I don’t know, baking a cookie. Just once I want them to go to Mohammed in Iran and show some guy who goes ‘Hello, I’m Mohammed and I’m just baking a cookie. Back to you Bob’.

I’ve just completed the Iranian leg of my Language-on-the-Move in the Middle East tour and was frequently reminded of that routine because everyone I’ve met over the past three weeks was baking cookies metaphorically speaking; they were doing mundane things. It is testimony to the pervasiveness of mass-mediated images that despite the fact that this was not my first visit to Iran, each time I come, I initially have this small sense of surprise that life here is just as normal as everywhere else.

I will write more about my observations of multilingualism, language learning and intercultural communication in Iran in the near future. However, today, on my last day in Tehran, I want to go out and enjoy some tea and cookies! So, this is a quick post to thank everyone who has helped to make my visit so productive and enjoyable. Sepas gozaram to all the colleagues, students, family and friends I’ve had the privilege to spend time with!

Author Ingrid Piller

Dr Ingrid Piller is Professor of Applied Linguistics at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Ingrid’s research expertise is in the fields of intercultural communication, bilingual education and the sociolinguistics of language learning and multilingualism in the contexts of migration and globalization.

More posts by Ingrid Piller
  • Hi Professor Piller,
    We enjoyed hearing from Iran right from the mouth of a Westerner. Besides, we at Sharif University are impatiently waiting for your book to be out soon. We hope to see you in Iran again. Wish u a safe trip back to Sydney.

  • Samad

    Dear Professor Piller,
    I should like to take this opportunity to express my own and many colleagues deep gratitude to you for all you did during your academic visit to Iran. We understand that at this time of the year you are very busy with a heavy workload at Macquarie University, but you have been kind enough to accept our requests for presentations and workshops in different universities, located wide apart geographically, from Tehran University in the Northern zone to Shiraz university in the Southern part of Iran.

    Similar to your scholarly publications, your presentations and workshops proved to be quite informative and insightful. Your scholarly comment on sociolinguistics and critical discourse provided our students and researchers with novel issues for further research.

    Your illuminating insights went beyond current issues in linguistics and discourse. Your comments on historical sites in Iran, particularly the Persepolis in Shiraz, were similarly fascinating. Your views on the language carved on the stones of this magnificent monument, for example, were quite informative. We hope such novel comments will be developed further in your future visits to disclose more of the secrets still left untouched in such monumental treasures.

  • Many congratulations on your successful workshop tour in Iran!

  • Loy Lising

    Glad to hear of your tremendous and productive time in Iran Ingrid. Safe trip back to Sydney.

  • Hongyan

    Looking forward to your coming back and telling us

  • I have the same feelings after visiting Iran. they just baking cookies. But the government… is still burning the flags.