About the Pashto Language

Pashto is an Iranian language of the Indo- European family. There are over 17 million speakers of Pashto, primarily in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, it is one of the two official languages and it is the native tongue of approximately 35% of the population. The other official language, Dari (Persian), is spoken by about 50%. Although Pashto is an official language of Afghanistan and is a required subject in middle school, Dari is used primarily in business and higher education. As a result, most Pashtuns also speak Dari. However, many Dari speakers do not have a good command of Pashto.
Pashto is spoken as a regional language by about 17 percent of the population of Pakistan. It is spoken in the North West Frontier Province (Pakhtoonkhwa), in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and in Balochistan. It is also spoken in some Pakistani cities like Karachi and Hyderabad. Pashto, however, is not an official language in Pakistan (Urdu is the offical language) and it is not taught in schools. Smaller communities of speakers can be found in Northeast Iran, Tajikistan, India, and the United Arab Emirates. The major Pashto-speaking cities are Kabul, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Peshawar, and Quetta.
 Athough Pashto has many dialects, the three primary ones are:
  • Northern - as spoken in Kabuland Jalalabad (Afghanistan) and in the Northwest Frontier Province (Pakistan);
  • Southern - as spoken in Kandahar (Afganistan) and Balochistan (western Pakistan and eastern Iran);
  • Central - as spoken in Wazirstan (northern Pakistan).


These three dialects are mutually intelligible. The Pimsleur course teaches the northern dialect as spoken in Kabul, which will be understood through all Pashto-speaking regions. Pashto is also called Pakhto, Pushto, Pukhto, Pashtu, or Pushtu.
Pashto uses a modified version of the Arabic alphabet, with forty-five letters, as opposed to twenty-eight in Arabic. The first written records of Pashto date to the 16th century. In the 18th and again in the 20th century the script was standardized to include additional letters representing sounds specific to Pashto. 

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Pashto-Speaking Countries