Pashto and Dari are the official languages of Afghanistan. These two Indo-European languages are derived from the Iranian languages sub-family. Dari, (Dari Persian or Afghan Persian) is a Persian language dialect and a lingua franca in Afghanistan. Though traditionally not a written language, the Farsi script helped in writing down Dari. This language has 26 consonants and vowels. The vowels have eight distinct sounds while the consonants produce twenty distinct sounds. Some of the letters that may confuse non-speakers include e and è, u and ù as well as a and â. Unique letters are ch, and sh. Just like Dari, Pashto (Pushtu or Pushto) is also a Persian language and has two dialect groups speaking the “soft” and “hard” forms of the language but are mutually intelligible. Pashto has 45 letters and 4 diacritic marks, and seven vowels like the unique ɑ and ə. Majority of the entire population speak Dari whereas the majority native Pashtuns speak Pashto. Afghans are multi-ethnic and multi-lingual people and therefore a majority speak both languages.

50% of Afghans speak Dari as a first language while another 37% speak it fluently as a second language. 40% of the population speaks Pashto as a first language and additional 28% speak it as a second language. 42% and 33% of the population can fluently read and write Dari and Pashto respectively. In the urban areas, 93% of the population speak Dari.

There are many pleasantries that are often exchanged in Afghanistan. Salaam (Dari) or as-salaamu 'alaykum (Pashto) are common greetings meaning “peace be with you.” Aaz deedaane shumaa Khoosh shudum (Dari) or za Khoshala yem chela tasee sara gorum (Pashto) meaning “I am pleased to meet you” is also common. Lastly, Khoob astum, tashakur, shumaa chutoor asten? (Dari) and za Kha yam, manana, tatsenga yee (Pashto) meaning “I’m fine, thanks, and you?” is equally common.

There are five regional languages spoken in the country, namely Hazaragi, Uzbek, Turkmen, Balochi, and Pashayi. Hazaragi is a dialect of Dari and native to the Hazara people. Over one million people speak this language. 9% of the population speak Uzbek as a first language while 6% speak it as a second language. 2% of the population are native Turkmen speakers. Other minority languages include Baloch, Askunu, Vasi-vari, Tregami, and Kalasha-ala. A good number of Afghans are fluent in English and other cross-border languages.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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