SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Languages of the Near & Middle East at SOAS: Pashto

Pashto is the language of the Pashtun, occasionally referred to as the biggest tribal group in the world. The Pashtun are the predominant ethnolinguistic element within Afghanistan and the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan, constituting a population of between fifty to sixty million. Pashto is thus numerically one of the most important languages of Western – or, indeed, Central - Asia. Pashto is a national language of Afghanistan, a privilege that it shares with Dari (previously referred to as ‘Afghan Persian’). The lack of widespread literacy in Pashtun areas has resulted in an exceptionally rich oral tradition of poetry and, little-known to the outside world, a film industry dating back to the 1920s in Afghanistan. The film industry continues to flourish in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, where it is known as ‘Pollywood’. The term Pashtun is often encountered in Pakistan as Pakhtun, reflecting a difference in pronunciation between Afghan and Pakistani variant forms of the language.

If you would like to learn Pashto contact the Language Centre.

Language Centre

  • Pashto Language Courses

Please Note: Not all courses and programmes are available every year