What Languages Are Spoken In Afghanistan?

Afghanistan close-up on a map.
Afghanistan close-up on a map.

Languages Of Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a landlocked country that shares its borders with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, and Pakistan. It has an estimated population of 32.5 million. Known for its ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity, the population of Afghanistan has been influenced by location and role in historic trade routes. Unlike in other countries, the native language of a person here does not necessarily indicate their ethnic identity. Afghanistan has two official languages, five regional languages, and several minority languages. Many of its residents are bilingual and multilingual. This article takes at look at the different languages spoken in this country.

Dari, The Official Language Of Afghanistan

One of the official languages of Afghanistan is Dari, also known as Farsi or Afghan Persian. It is considered a modern dialect of the Persian language. Of the two official languages, it is more dominant and considered the lingua franca, or trade language, of the country. It is the utilized by government, its administration, and mass media outlets. As a common language, it can be heard mainly in the central, northern, and western regions of the country. Approximately 49% of the population speak Dari as a first language and an additional 37% as a second language. Of those who speak the language, 42% are also literate in its writings. The primary ethnic groups that speak Dari as a first language include Tajiks, Hazaras, and Aymaqs. Scholars believe that Dari originated during the Sassanid Dynasty, which lasted from 224 to 651 AD, as the language spoken in the courts and by religious figures and scholars.

Pashto, The Second Official Language Of Afghanistan

The second official language of Afghanistan is Pashto, a member of the Indo-Iranian language family. This is an ancient language that shares some vocabulary with the Persian and Vedic Sanskrit languages. The language has been preserved through historical writings and poetry, although a high level of illiteracy among its speakers has led to an increased use of Pashto for oral traditions, like storytelling. At least 68% of the population can speak Pashto, 40% at a native level and 28% as a second language. It can be heard predominantly in urban areas located in the south, southwest, and eastern parts of the country. Although spoken by people of various ethnic descents, Pashto is the native language of the Pashtuns, the majority ethnic group.

Regional Languages Spoken In Afghanistan

In addition to the official languages of the country, the government of Afghanistan has also recognized five other languages for their regional importance: Hazaragi, Uzbek, Turkmen, Balochi, and Pashayi. Hazaragi is the native language of the Hazara people and is considered a dialect of Dari. Today, it has around 2.2 million speakers worldwide, mainly in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. Uzbek is spoken as a first language by 9% of the population, an additional 6% speak it as a second language. Turkmen is the native language of 2% of the people, and the second language of 3%. Balochi is the native language of the Baloch people and spoken as a second language by the Brahui culture. The Baloch make up around 2% of the population of Afghanistan. The Pashayi language has around 400,000 native speakers.

Minor Languages Spoken In Afghanistan

Several other languages can be heard throughout Afghanistan, but on a much smaller scale than those previously mentioned. Estimates suggest around 40 different minor languages with 200 different dialects made up this category. Some of these minor languages include Vasi-vari, Tregami, Askunu, and Kalasha-ala.


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