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Languages of Afghanistan

See also Arabic and Persian for additional information on Dari Persian and Pashto. See Turkic for additional information on Uzbek.

Page Content

  1. About the Afganistan Languages and the Arabic Script
  2. Browser and Font Recommendations
  3. Activate Keyboards for Typing
  4. Web Development
    1. Language Codes: ps (Pashto), uz-AF (Uzbek, Afghanistan), fa-AF (Dari Persian), ar (Arabic)
  5. Links

About the Afghanistan Languages and the Arabic Script

Dari Persian

Dari Persian is similar to the Persian (or Farsi) language of Iran, but with significant differences. This is probably the most prestigious language of Afghanistan although others are widely spoken and used.


Pashto is in the same family as Persian (the Iranian languages), but are in separate branches and are therefore very distant. Many people in Southern Afghanistan and the capital of Kabul speak Pashto, but Dari Persian is considered more prestigious.

Pashto is not widely supported, but Persian support may approximate Pashto in many cases. It should be noted though that vowel marks are considered more important in Pashto than in Arabic.


Uzbek is spoken in Norther Afghanistan, but is not related to either Persian or Pashto, but to to Turkish (in the Turkic family). In Afghanistan, Uzbek is written in the Arabic script, but in neighboring Uzbekistan, the language is written in either Cyrillic or the Roman alphabet. More information about writing Uzbek in Cyrillic and Roman is given in the Turkic page.

Afghanistan Language Links

The Arabic Script

Because most Afghans are Islamic, the Arabic script is generally used although some letters just for Pashto, Uzbek and Persian have been added. These languages typically use the Nastaliq version of the Arabic script with with extra letters.

The Arabic script has two features which make it unique in terms of encoding. One is that it is written from right to left (or RTL ). The other feature is that the shapes of individual letters change forms depending on whether the letter is alone, at the beginning of a word, the middle of a word or at the end.

In order to process Arabic correctly, a software must be able to display text from right to left and make sure the letter forms are displayed correctly depending on their positions within a word. Unfortunately, there is incomplete implementation of creating correct letter forms in many software packages.

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Activating Keyboards for Fonts

In order to integrate foreign scripts into your computer, you must set up "keyboard" or input utilities in your operating system. These utilities will allow you to switch between typing English and other languages in word processors and Web tools. This process will also make sure the correct fonts are installed and available on your operating system.

See instructions for Setting up Keyboards for details.


Other Windows Applications

  1. Windows Vista - Both a Pashto and Persian keyboard are available.
  2. Windows XP - A Farsi (Persian) keyboard is available in Windows, but you may have to install it from the Windows System disk. See the Windows Complex Scripts Keyboard Instructions for details on how to activate the keyboard. To see where the critical keys are, go to the Microsoft Keyboard Layouts Page.
  3. There is a third-party Pashto keyboard is also available from Tolafghan (page in Pashto).
  4. [an error occurred while processing this directive] A phonetic Farsi Keyboard from Keyman is available. See the "Phonetic Keyboard" section of Persian Word Processing for more details.

Right to Left Typing in Word for Windows

See instructions for configuring right to left typing in Word for Windows for tips on how to type RTL languages.


1. Three Afghan keyboards are available from Apple includeing Afghan Pashto, Afghan Dari and Afghan Uzbek. However, you may have to install it from the Macintosh System disk because it is a complex script.

See the Macintosh Keyboard Instructions for details on how to activate the keyboard.

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2. A QWERTY Persian keyboard is also available from the Iranian Macintosh Users Group. Follow installation instructions and place the file in the Users/Library/Keyboard Layouts folder.

Additional Macintosh RTL Tips

See tips for creating Mac Right-to-Left documents (including alternatives to Microsoft Office) for more information.

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Browser and Font Recommendations

Pashto Test Site

If you have your browser configured correctly, the Web sites above should display the correct characters. If you have difficulties, see list below for font and browser configuration instructions.

www.tolafghan.com/tech/index.php?ziel=windows (Pashto Keyboard)

Fonts by Platform

Additional freeware fonts can be downloaded from from the sites below, and some include Persian support. Note that not all these fonts may work on System 9 for Macintosh, but will work in Windows and OS X .

Recommended Browsers

Browsers which fully support Unicode are the strongly recommended. Click link in list to view configuration instructions. You will be asked to match a script with a font.

Note on System 9: Because Unicode support is incomplete in System 9, it may be beneficial to upgrade to OS X if you need to work with Unicode.

Manually Switch Encoding

If you see Roman character gibberish instead of Arabic you will need to manually switch from Western encoding view to the Unicode encoding under the View menu of your browser.

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Web Development

Encoding and Language Tags

These are the codes which allow browsers and screen readers to process data as the appropriate language. All letters in codes are lower case.

Note: The Uzbek and Dari Persian codes include the country code AF for Afghanistan. This can also be added for Pashto.

Using Encoding and Language Codes

Computers process text by assuming a certain encoding or a system of matching electronic data with visual text characters. Whenever you develop a Web site you need to make sure the proper encoding is specified in the header tags; otherwise the browser may default to U.S. settings and not display the text properly.

To declare an encoding, insert or inspect the following meta-tag at the top of your HTML file, then replace "???" with one of the encoding codes listed above. If you are not sure, use utf-8 as the encoding.

Generic Encoding Template

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=??? ">

Declare Unicode

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8 ">


The final close slash must be included after the final quote mark in the encoding header tag if you are using XHTML

Declare Unicode in XHTML

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />

No Encoding Declared

If no encoding is declared, then the browser uses the default setting, which in the U.S. is typically Latin-1. Some display errors may occur.

Language Tags

Language tags are also suggested so that search engines and screen readers parse the language of a page. These are metadata tags which indicate the language of a page, not devices to trigger translation. Visit the Language Tag page to view information on where to insert it.

Specifying Text Direction

Some HTML editors set the direction of the text automatically. but it can also be set manually by using the newer <dir> and <bdo> attributes. See the Right-to-Left Alignment Tips page for more details.

PDF and Image Files

In some cases, your best options may be to use PDF files or image files. See the Web Development Tips section for more details.


Pashto Fonts

Computing in Afghanistan

Farsi/Persian Computing

Arabic Computing




Unix and Linux


Arabic Script

Script Basics

Additional Arabic Script Fonts

Create Right To Left Web Pages

These Web sites provide additional information on developing Right-to-Left Pages.

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Last Modified: Tuesday, 30-Jun-2015 15:54:27 EDT