About a month ago, I got an email in which someone had mentioned that the most educated Pashtuns would much rather write in English than in our native language (which is Pashto/Pakhto). And, that over 90 percent of Pashtuns cannot read nor write Pashto. I couldn’t help but agree with him; for I, too, have noticed that most of us are not even making any remote effort to learn the language properly. Rather, we are dedicating all our time and effort to learning other languages, such as Urdu, Arabic, Farsi/Dari, or Turkish; while not even bothering to perfect our own language. As sad as this fact is, it is what it is: A fact. Anyway, I was very happy that that individual induced this crucial dilemma by shedding light on this issue, for it IS an issue that many of us have managed to ignore simply by shoving it under the carpet.
Yes, simply speaking Pashto is not enough anymore; we really need to start going in deeper than what we know on the surface. I know many Pashtuns have no problem reading Pashto, as most are taught how to read the Qur’an (in Arabic, of course); yet, at the same time, despite learning how to read in Arabic, they have absolutely no idea what it is that they are reading. And since Pashto script is very similar to Arabic, I am sure many Pashtuns are able to grasp it; or at least be able to comprehend the gist of it.
Personally speaking, I admit I was never taught how to read/write Pashto, during my formative years growing up in the Middle East, but I was forced to learn Arabic, and I even went to a school where it was compulsory for me to take one Arabic class, regardless of whether it was my native tongue or not. Hence, learning how to read and write in Pashto was not too difficult a task for me, though I still struggle with it from time to time.
Now, my question is: How can we go about ensuring that our educated Pashtuns know, or at least learn, how to read and write Pashto in addition to speaking it? Oh, and by the way, some can’t even speak the language properly either. Another major problem is the mixing of Urdu/Dari into our language. Like for example, saying “umeed” instead of “heela,” or “darwaaza” instead of “warr,” or “mehrabani/tashakur” instead of “manana.” As much as it is frustrating that so many Pashtuns can’t read nor write Pashto, it’s even more frustrating when they can’t even speak the language properly. It’s a shame, really, but then we need to come up with a logical solution to motivate and perhaps even rectify this gaping hole among the more secular, more educated, and the more intellectually advanced Pashtun Diaspora, especially in the West.
It’s always so easy to say that we need to do this or that for our Pakhtana, but I am wondering whether there is anyone, or a group of people out there – who are educated and can speak/read/write Pashto fluently – and are willing to pass on that knowledge and help those who are lacking in one, or all, of those abilities? If there do exist such humble Pashtuns, please get in touch with me for this has been a project I’ve been meaning to launch for quite some time now.
We used to conduct Pashto classes where I live (I am from Canada), and they ran successfully for a couple years, until they ended abruptly, as the person who was teaching the class had to go back to Pekhawar. However, a close friend, my husband, and I are planning to rejuvenate it and see if we can find teachers who would be willing to dedicate their time and commitment to helping local Pashtuns (living in our community) to better their Pashto, as well as learn (or perfect) their reading and writing abilities. (And, yes, I plan to attend those classes too, for I have too many plans for my Pashtuns, and it’s very crucial I perfect the language as best as I can.)
Anyway, if it weren’t for that email I received a month ago, my plans for breathing life back into those Pashto classes would have been delayed even further. And, I will be speaking to a few people in the next few weeks to see what can be done in my community, as we have a plethora of Pashtuns living here.
It’s about time we took matters into our own hands, because if we don’t do it, then who will?