Guide to Trashcanistan: A Pashto Phrasebook

General Notes

Below is a brief survey of phrases that may be useful "on the ground" as a tourist, journalist, or other noncombatant in Afghanistan. This does not purport to be an all-inclusive guidebook, and should only be used as either a quick familiarization, or a last resort. It is highly advised that you do not travel to Afghanistan without a skilled and absolutely trustworthy interpreter, or else a convoy of armed Marines, a contingent of British Army, or another similar force of arms. More detailed notes are given at the end of each section in the form of marked (by asterisks) footnotes.

Questions should be asked with a clear, deliberate rising inflection - indeed, in Pashto the rising inflection is most often the only indication that a given sentence is meant to be a question rather than a statement.

Common Greetings

Peace Be Upon You        A blessing upon your house!        How are you?         Is all well with your family?
 Asalam Alaikum                 Kor di wadan!                Tsunga Yay?          Tol loy au koochni jora di?

May you arrive and depart in good health!
      Pa khair khairiat yay!

Simple Phrases for the Traveler

Where is (the) ____?        Where can I get _____?      What time is it right now?         When is ____ ?
  ____ cheri di?             Cheri ____ wakhlum?             Kum wakht di?            ____ pa kum wakht ki di?

  I am from ____.          Do you speak English?        Do you know somebody who speaks English?
    D ____ yum.              Angriz po shwei?             Tsok po shwei che Angriz habari di?

Please do not cut my head off for the propaganda film, I am not very photogenic.
Lutfan, sar may prey makra pa d tablighat video ki, pa aks ki kha na malomeghum.


  Let's defy the Taliban and dance the Atan. *                     I would enjoy listening to a skilled harmonium player.
Zmoonj bayad Taliban makhamakh sho au atan wokroo.                 Zma pa nazar ki kha harmonium moziq ba deyr kha wai.

I would like to watch a match of headless goat polo.     No thank you, I am not interested in dancing-boys. **
         Ghuarm che buzkashi wowinum.                           Na manana, bazingaran zma na khwokha da.
* The "Atan" is the national dance of Pashtun people. Feel free to join if you are a man, there are no other requirements. You don't need rhythm, timing, agility, or even a sense of hearing, though having at least some of these things will garner you effluvious praise.
** Dancing-boys, known locally as bazingaran, singular bazingar, or bacha bazi is a heinous tradition by which unwillingly feminized prepubescent boys are forced to masquerade as women, performing exotic dances in their place at the Afghan equivalent of stag parties and often being subject to extreme sexual abuse.

At the Market

 Do you sell by the piece, or by weight?         How much are you asking for this? *
Tsunga khartsawal - pa shei, ya pa wazen?                  Da tso di?                 

How much will you give me for ___ Afghani/Dollar/Rupee? **               Where is the opium market?
     Tsomra ma ta raka ___ A/D/R da para?                                  Koknar bazaar cheri di?

  I want to have a suit of clothes made for me by a tailor.          I would like Afghan clothes/a Western suit.
Ghuarm che kandal jamei zma khapl dzan da para jorawie.               Afghan jamei/partsapali ghuarm.

I would like one of those amazing hats that Hamid Karzai wears. ***
                  Karakal ghuarm.

I would like one of those pancake hats that Massoud wore. ***   I would like one of those turban things that Pashtuns wear. ***

                        Pakol ghuarm.                                           Loongie ghuarm.
* You will be quoted a price ranging from 500% to 50% above the price the seller expects to get after haggling.
** There will often be a discount depending on the actual currency used - this discount is sometimes greater than the premium paid for converting said currency. US Dollars are generally preferred. "Rupee" can refer to any of the regional currencies known officially as "rupee" but can also mean "cash" in general. Depending on where you are, the merchant may be comfortable accepting payment in Tajik somoni, Iranian rial, Uzbekistani som, or Pakistani or Indian rupee.
*** Hats vary greatly in price and quality. This is particularly true for karakuls, the rarest of which can go for upwards of $1000 US. Pakols are literally all the same other than color - they're all made in the same place by the same people, in Chitral. Loongie, or the turbanesque head scarves worn by Pashtun men in the south, are extremely difficult to "tie" correctly. Have it demonstrated to you several times and be sure you know how to do it. If you wear an improperly tied loongie, you will be seen as a "dirty Arab" by many Afghans because of certain cultural connotations leftover from the Soviet occupation and foreign mujahidin. Essentially, hats are complicated and the author recommends you stick with a pakol for daily wear.

Miscellaneous Phrases

  Is this area clear of landmines?                 Can I hire an interpreter/guide/taxi/donkey/porter?               
Pa delta dzay ki, mainuna pakawallo di?       Tejerbat/Larshowalawonki/Taksi/khur/karkawonki cryawalai shum?

     Where can I get a set of papers with which to cross the border?
Kaghaz, passport, au bul sheian d sarhad awoshtedallo da para cheri wakhlum?

  Death to America!          Do you know the muffin man?         
Amrika mur ta warkra!          Kolcha sarai po shwelast?              

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