What Language Is This?!

As a summative task in my ENG4U class, we were assigned different books and groups and have been reading them for close to a month now. The book that I am reading is called A Thousand Splendid Suns. This title might seen familiar because it is by the same author as the very famous The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini.

Click here for a short summary of the novel

Click here for a short summary of the novel

If anyone has even picked up a copy of this book, you would right off the bat realize that a lot of the words are in Pashto, and there are no footnotes or glossaries to explain what the words mean. Being from Iran, Pashto and Farsi are two close enough languages that I am able to understand what all of the words me, further on in this post, I will write out all of the words up until where I have read and translate them into English. I’ll continue to do this if I find any new words as a read further into the novel.

Before I get into translating the words, I just want to explain a bit what kind of an effect the use of Pashto words has on the novel and on the readers. By using Pashto, it gives the novel certain advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantages would be that anyone who did not have a basic understanding of Farsi, Pashto, or even Arabic, would find it a bit irritating. I’ve talked to some of my peers and teachers about this book and after their questions of asking whether or not there is anywhere that the author explains the words, they all assume that the words in Pashto are probably not that important and that you would be able to get the gist of the sentence either way. I would have to disagree with this. For some reason, the majority of the words which are written in Pashto seem to be the most important words and, if you weren’t able to understand them, would cause the reader to loose the complete feel of the text. One of my teachers suggested that this was done in an attempt by the author to try and keep the novel’s audience individuals from that region; however, I don’t see why that would be the case because the author, and his novels are globally known.

Click here for a short biography of Khaled Hosseini, the author of A Thousand Splendid Suns

Click here for a short biography of Khaled Hosseini, the author of A Thousand Splendid Suns

There are two big advantages that would come with having certain words written in Pashto. The more minor one would be that, as anyone who speaks a second language would know, it can be very difficult, and frustrating, at times to try and translate certain words and/or expressions between two languages where the expression/word doesn’t actually have an exact translation. For example, the word Sabzi is a type of plant/herb/vegetable (see, even I can’t describe it) that is eaten/put into different dishes in the the Iran/Afghanistan region but there is no exact translation for it in English. Because of this, it would be easier for Hosseini to leave some of the words in Pashto because it would be easier than having to change certain sentences around completely in order for them to make sense just because of one word. The major advantage which I found with having certain words in Pashto is that, it shows how authentic this story is and how much of a reality it is for people (mainly women) living in that region and how much they have to struggle in their daily lives.

Here is a list of only some of the Pashto words translated into English

Pashto

English

Page #

Noor Light

Dedication

Harami Bastard Child

3

Kolba  Hut

3

Jinn Demon

3

Dil Gut

6

Didi Expression: You see?

6

Kinchini whore

8

Shahnai Indian Oboe

9

Dohol Type of drum played in the Middle East

9

Jo Dear

11

Shalqam Type of Stew

15

Sabzi plant/vegetable/herb that can be eaten

15

Arbab Leader

15

Kichiri Rice

15

Dishlemeh Type of sweet

15

Akhund A Muslim Cleric

15

Namaz Prayer

15

Alef Letter of the alphabet : A

15

Beh Letter of the Alphabet: B

15

Seh Letter of the Alphabet: C

15

Mashallah Expression: oh my god

21

Aneh yes

25

Nay no

25

Gari Kind of carriage

29

Dokhtar Girl

30

Bia Come

32

Fahmidi Expression: Do you understand?

41

Surrah  

40

Ayat Miracle

40

Khastegar Expression (there isn’t really a word for it in English): Someone who asks a woman for her hand in marriage

43

Moochi Shoe Repairman

43

Nikka Swearing ceremony of a wedding

45

Agha Respectful way of saying man

48

Meem Letter of the alphabet :M

49

Reh Letter of the alphabet :R

49

Ya Letter of the alphabet :Y

49

Tabreek Congratulations

49

Tashakor Expression: Thank you

55

Salaam Hello

60

Daal Kind of food

62

Aftawa  

62

Logari Kind of music

65

Hamshira Sister

66

Chapans Traditional coat for men

67

Poostin Type of coat

67

Qurma kind of food

71

There are probably 100 more words, so I will continue to post the rest in my other blog posts.

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2 thoughts on “What Language Is This?!

  1. I agree and actually relate to what you are saying about having two different languages presented. I always have trouble translating some words from arabic to english that most of the time my idea is miscommunicated and I feel like an outsider
    Because there were several words in Pashto that we use in arabic, it made this novel more entertaining, It made me feel like I am one of the characters in the story.

  2. But…most of these words are infact not Pashto, they are Dari..the other official language of Afghanistan, which is related to Farsi and quite similar. Pashto is from another language branch and not similar to Farsi at all..
    Husseini is himself pashto, so might have used some words in pashto too (its been a while since i read the book) but alot, if not all, of those words up there are Dari..

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