Mother Tongue Tuesday: Dari

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What better day than April Fools’ to start a series on a complex and virtually impossible to pin down topic like world languages?

In spite of the risks that I will get them wrong and look like that fool, I have the marvelous opportunity to learn about many languages because of my job teaching English as a second language. And although I’ve been doing this job for 20 years, the world is so full of languages, I still get new students speaking languages I know next to nothing about. 

Whenever someone walks in with a language new to me, I zip back to my office computer to look it up before I see the student in the next class. Part of this is to help my students. When I know more about their language, I am better able to help them learn English.

Of course, I also don’t like looking ignorant and am plain curious.

So here it is. My first Mother Tongue Tuesday post. These are not my Mother Tongues. And, while I’ve studied a few of the languages quite a bit, most of them I only know a few words in (see my post on learning Russian–which I am not keeping up with very well). If you see I’ve made an error with a language, I’d love for you to set me straight (gently, of course).

For the most part, I’ll use Ethnologue, the UCLA Language Materials Project and Wikipedia as sources, especially if I have not studied the language extensively and do not know someone I can easily ask. I’ll try to put up videos so you can hear the language and keep my fingers crossed that those videos are accurate. 

I don’t know how many Tuesdays I can keep this up. When I get to an end of the languages my students have spoken over the years, I’ll let you know. If I’m still having fun, I may continue with languages I’ve never been able to hear in person.

Dari: Language of the Afghans

“I didn’t know that,” my husband said when I told him they speak the same language in Afghanistan that they do in Iran. Which — it turns out is not entirely true but mostly. What I’m writing here is not hard to find out but I never bothered to look until I met my newest student from Afghanistan with her soft eyes and careful handwriting.

After I got to my computer, I learned that many like my student speak Dari, which is written in a Persian script very similar to what the Arabic speakers use. I carefully tried to copy this script for her the other day, not realizing that I was writing it backwards — left to right instead of right to left. I’m impressed she could figure out what I was doing . Imagine watching someone writing English backwards and figuring out what they were doing!

Here is the breakdown on Dari:

Language family: Indo-European (Dari is in the same language family as English, meaning it’s much more similar to my first language than Arabic, which is Afro-Asiatic.)

Where they speak Dari: Afghanistan and Eastern Iran

Famous person who speaks/spoke Dari: The poet Rumi (Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī)

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” – Rumi

Dari Tidbits:

Sometimes also called Persian or Farsi although there is a Persian-Farsi and a Persian-Dari

Dari adds a bit to the end of words for the indefinite pronoun (a/an). This looks like:

book = ketab

a book = ketabey

(I found this article bit of grammar at

And here is a rather scratchy sounding video of someone teaching Dari if you’d like to hear it:




About the author: Karrie Zylstra Myton is a blogger, essayist, and aspiring author who writes for the wild joy it brings on the best days and the hard lessons she learns about life on the worst. After crafting stories in the ridiculously early morning hours, she chases her two sons, cuddles with cats, and laughs with her husband about how crazy life can get in middle age.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Martha Grover April 2, 2014, 4:28 AM

    I am excited about your language project. I am interested in languages, find them fascinating, but am not able to mastering a second one. I studied Spanish in college, at the Defense Dept. Language School in Monterey, and while I lived in South America, but still sounded like a gringo every time I opened my mouth. Dwight, however, did “get it,” plus some German and Viet Namese. I will follow your adventure in languages with interest and much goodwill.

    • Karrie Zylstra April 5, 2014, 7:19 PM

      I’m so glad, Martha! Next up this week will be American Sign Language. I’ve got a student now who uses this amazing way to communicate:)

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