Afghanistan has two official languages. The most widely spoken is Dari, which originated from classical Persian, the language of Iran. The second is Pashtu, the language of most Pashtun people. Afghanistan also has approximately 30 minority languages, the most common of which are the Turkic languages Uzbek and Turkmen. All Afghan languages use the flowing Arabic script for writing.
In general, the distribution of languages is geographical, following the settlement of ethnic groups. Pushtu is widespread on the central highlands and southwestern plateau, while most people on the northern plains speak Dari, Uzbek and Turkmen. Although Pashtuns have dominated Afghan politics for many decades and are the largest ethnic group, Dari has special importance in Afghan literature and is most often the language of commerce in the countryside. Many Afghans are bilingual and use Dari to facilitate communication across ethnic groups.
Both Pashtu and Dari, as well as some other Afghan languages, are Indo-European languages, meaning that they are distantly related to English. Indo-European languages are common in Pakistan, India and Iran and are believed to have originated from Aryan invaders. Languages with an Indo-European root have a similar grammatical structure and words that often come from the same stem or root.
Like many people in Middle Eastern and Arabic countries, Afghans use many gestures and movements to express themselves. Members of the same sex also touch each other frequently when speaking; however, touching the opposite sex in public is avoided in traditional Muslim society. As a mark of respect, Afghan women traditionally lower their eyes when speaking to men.
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When greeting friends and acquaintances, Afghan men are very affectionate: shaking both hands, hugging and kissing on the cheeks are all common gestures. Male friends also may also hold hands or link arms when walking.
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Some English words that have come from Persian include shawl, taffeta, khaki and bazaar.