The language

Pashto is an Indo-European language. It is one of the two official languages of Afghanistan and one of the five national languages spoken in Pakistan. Pashto speakers can also be found in the northeast of Iran, Tajikistan and India, as well as in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries.

The dialects

There are two main varieties of Pashto. Southern Pashto is a co-official language of Afghanistan along with Dari. Dari is the language used in formal situations and it is the common language of the various ethnic groups in the country. Northern Pashto is mainly spoken in Pakistan but it does not have official status. These varieties have sub-dialects but speakers of different dialects can generally understand each other.

The script

Pashto is written in the Arabic alphabet with additional letters to represent consonants specific to Pashto. The modern Pashto alphabet used for all varieties of the language has 44 letters. It uses all 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet and shares 3 letters with Persian and Urdu.


When translating from Pashto to English, the word count tends to increase, because certain terms do not have English equivalents and must be described.

Afghan culture

Afghanistan has a multicultural, multiethnic society. The Pashtun constitute nearly half of the population and many live in neighbouring Pakistan. Tajiks are the second largest ethnic group; they are Iranian in origin and speak Persian. Hazaris are descendents of the Mongols and also speak an Iranian dialect. Uzbeks live in the northern areas of the country and speak a dialect of Turkish. Finally, there are small groups of Turkomens and Baluchis, pastoral nomads who speak an Iranian language called Baluchi.