Dari and Pashto: Afghan Languages Fun Facts & Books

Today’s spotlight language is on Dari and Pashto! We’ve gathered background information and interesting facts about these two languages. You can also find information on our newest bilingual Dari and Pashto children’s books.

What Languages are Spoken in Afghanistan?

There are over 40 different languages spoken in Afghanistan. In fact, the majority of the country identifies as bilingual. While the lingua franca of Afghanistan is Dari, both Dari and Pashto are considered the official languages of the country. Since 1964, the Afghan government has politically promoted Dari as the official term for the New Persian language spoken in the country. Pashto is spoken by roughly 50 percent of Afghanistan, mostly ethnic Pashtuns. Interestingly, the Afghan national anthem is in Pashto.

Dari and Pashto in the United States

The United States is made up of many immigrant populations, but the Afghan immigrant population has grown faster over the last decade than many others. In 2021 alone, over 55,000 Afghan refugees arrived and 44% of those refugees housed temporarily at US military bases were children.

Interesting Facts About Dari and Pashto

Until the early twentieth century, only Pashto speakers were considered Afghans. The rest of the Afghan population was called by their ethnic or tribal designations.

Both Pashto and Dari are written using the Arabic alphabet.

Dari comes from the Persian word darbar which means royal court and it is used because it was the language of the Central Asian and Moghul Indian courts.

Given that Dari is the accepted Afghan dialect of Persian, it is one of the oldest languages in the world. Not only can many people who speak Dari understand poems written over 1600 years ago, but they can also understand Farsi (Western Persian) and Tajik, a modern variety of Persian spoken in Tajikistan and other parts of Central Asia.

There are two main dialects of Pashto, the “hard” and the “soft”. The first can be referred to by Peshawari or Pakhto while the latter can be called either Kandahari or Pashtu.

Dari and Pashto Bilingual Children’s Books

If you interact with children who speak Dari or Pashto, or are learning these languages, you may want suggestions on engaging bilingual children’s books. Some fun story books with text in both English and the Pashto language include: Be Kind, We Can All Be Friends, Happy After All, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Walking through the Jungle, and Who Are We? For bilingual children’s books in both English and Dari, you can find these titles: Be Kind, We Can All Be Friends, Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Sports Day in the Jungle, and Who Are We?

Are you interested in learning about other languages as well?  Check out our series of posts on world languages, including Oromo, Nepali, Hindi, Russian, and Japanese!


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