Open main menu

Afghanistan is a multilingual country in which two languages – Dari and Pashto – are both official and most widely spoken.[1]

Languages of Afghanistan
Ethnolinguistic Groups Afghanistan EN.svg
OfficialDari and Pashto[1]
RegionalDari, Pashto, Uzbek, Turkmen, Balochi, Pashayi
SignedAfghan Sign Language
Most spoken language per district (1985)

Dari is the official name of the Persian language in Afghanistan. It is often referred to as the Afghan Persian.[2][3] Although still widely known as Farsi ("Persian") to its native speakers, the name was officially changed to Dari in 1964.[4]

Both Persian and Pashto are Indo-European languages from the Iranian languages sub-family. Other regional languages, such as Uzbek, Turkmen, Balochi, Pashayi and Nuristani, are spoken by minority groups across the country.

Minor languages include Hindi-Urdu,[5][6] Punjabi,[7] Ashkunu, Kamkata-viri, Vasi-vari, Tregami and Kalasha-ala, Pamiri (Shughni, Munji, Ishkashimi and Wakhi), Brahui, Arabic, Qizilbash, Aimaq, and Pashai and Kyrgyz. Linguist Harald Haarmann believes that Afghanistan is home to more than 40 minor languages,[8] with around 200 different dialects.


Languages of Afghanistan[9]

The Dari language functions as the nation's lingua franca and is the native tongue of various Afghan ethnic groups including the Tajiks, Hazaras and Aimaqs.[10] Pashto is the native tongue of the Pashtuns, the dominant ethnic group in Afghanistan.[11] Due to Afghanistan's multi-ethnic character, multilingualism is a common phenomenon.

The exact figures about the size and composition of the various ethnolinguistic groups are unavailable since no systematic census has been held in Afghanistan in decades.[12] The table below displays the major languages spoken in Afghanistan:

Spoken Languages in Afghanistan
Language 2006 (as L1)
(out of 6,226)[13]
2006 (as L2)
(out of 6,226)[13]
(out of 9,260)[14]
(out of 13,943)[9]
Dari 49% 37% 79% 77%
Pashto 40% 28% 51% 48%
Uzbek 9% 6% 9% 11%
Turkmen 2% 3% 3% 3%
Balochi 0% 0% 1% 1%
Pashayi 0% 1% 1% 1%
Nuristani N/A N/A 1% 1%
Arabic 0% 2% 1% 1%
English 0% 8% 5% 6%
Urdu 0% 7% 2% 3%

A sizeable population in Afghanistan, especially in Kabul, can also speak and understand Hindi-Urdu due to the popularity and influence of Bollywood films and songs in the region.[5][6]

Language policyEdit

The official languages of the country are Dari and Pashto, as established by the 1964 Constitution of Afghanistan. Dari is the most widely spoken language of Afghanistan's official languages and acts as a lingua franca for the country. In 1980, other regional languages were granted official status in the regions where they are the language of the majority.[15] This policy was codified in the 2004 Afghan Constitution, which established Uzbek, Turkmen, Balochi, Pashayi, Nuristani and Pamiri as a third official language in areas where they are spoken by a majority of the population.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "What Languages are Spoken in Afghanistan?". 2004. Retrieved June 13, 2012. Pashto and Dari are the official languages of the state. are – in addition to Pashto and Dari – the third official language in areas where the majority speaks them
  2. ^ "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: prs". 18 January 2010. Retrieved December 5, 2014.
  3. ^ "The World Factbook: Afghanistan". Retrieved December 5, 2014.
  4. ^ R. Farhadi and J. R. Perry, Kaboli, Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition, originally in Vol. XV, Fasc. 3, pp. 276–280, 2009.
  5. ^ a b Hakala, Walter N. (2012). "Languages as a Key to Understanding Afghanistan's Cultures" (PDF). National Geographic. Retrieved 13 March 2018. In the 1980s and '90s, at least three million Afghans--mostly Pashtun--fled to Pakistan, where a substantial number spent several years being exposed to Hindi- and Urdu-language media, especially Bollywood films and songs, and beng educated in Urdu-language schools, both of which contributed to the decline of Dari, even among urban Pashtuns.
  6. ^ a b Krishnamurthy, Rajeshwari (28 June 2013). "Kabul Diary: Discovering the Indian connection". Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations. Retrieved 13 March 2018. Most Afghans in Kabul understand and/or speak Hindi, thanks to the popularity of Indian cinema in the country.
  7. ^ Wahab, Shaista; Youngerman, Barry (2007). A Brief History of Afghanistan. Infobase Publishing. p. 18. ISBN 9781438108193. Afghan Hindus and Sikhs speak Hindi or Punjabi in addition to Dari and Pashto.
  8. ^ Harald Haarmann: Sprachen-Almanach – Zahlen und Fakten zu allen Sprachen der Welt. Campus-Verl., Frankfurt/Main 2002, ISBN 3-593-36572-3, S.273–274; Afghanistan
  9. ^ a b The Asia Foundation. Afghanistan in 2018: A Survey of the Afghan People.
  10. ^ "Languages of Afghanistan". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  11. ^ "Ethnic groups". BBC News. Retrieved 7 June 2013. Pashtun: Estimated to be in excess of 45% of the population, the Pashtuns have been the most dominant ethnic group in Afghanistan.
  12. ^ O'toole, Pam (October 6, 2004). "Afghan poll's ethnic battleground". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-09-16.
  13. ^ a b The Asia Foundation. Afghanistan in 2006: A Survey of the Afghan People.
  14. ^ The Asia Foundation. Afghanistan in 2013: A Survey of the Afghan People.
  15. ^ "AFGHANISTAN v. Languages". Ch. M. Kieffer. Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2012-04-08. A. Official languages. Paṧtō (1) is the native tongue of 50 to 55 percent of Afghans... Persian (2) is the language most spoken in Afghanistan. The native tongue of twenty five percent of the population, it is split into numerous dialects.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit