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Old 04-21-2011, 15:14   #16
Airbornelawyer
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For those who are interested, here is a good language map of Central Asia:

Small map (788kB): Central Asia MidEast and Vicinity Languages

Big map (6.5mB): Central Asia MidEast and Vicinity Languages

Depending on how the AOR is defined, I would rank Persian high for the region. I would not limit myself to the Dari version, any more than I would say to a Spanish student study only Cuban Spanish. Dari and standard Persian are mutually intelligible. The differences aren't nearly as profound as that found between MSA and various Arabic dialects. In my experience, I've never noticed any significant difficulty with Iranians understanding Dari or Afghan Dari speakers understanding Iranians, though Iranians tend to look down on Dari. Because my experience was working with mujahideen, I studied Dari before interacting in any meaningful way with Iranians, but if I had to do it all over again, I would start with Persian, because I found it harder to unlearn local idiom and slang.

Also, in the longer term, Iranian Persian might prove more tactically valuable than Afghan Persian, if the winds of change kick up a duststorm in Tehran again.

For that matter, although it is a more difficult language for English-speakers to pick up than Persian, I would assess Pashto's importance higher in the current conflicts. Outside of native speakers like Tajiks, most Dari second-language speakers tend to be the educated elites in places like Kabul. Your typical Pushtun villager from maulavi to farmer won't understand Dari well, if at all. And if you broaden your scope across the border, Pushtuns in the Pakistani tribal areas won't speak it at all.

When it comes to languages, though, I may not be the best judge. I am bit of a jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none. I was a 3/3 in German and a 2+/3 in French on my last DLPTs, but I'm probably around 1/1 in 9-10 different languages. As my coach would say if I'd stuck with a sport long enough, "you lack focus."
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