For U.S. soldiers working in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, interacting with locals is a daily struggle due to the language barrier. Locals speak Pashto, one of the region’s primary languages, which has 44 letters and its own unique calligraphy – a challenge for even the most linguistically gifted. But thanks to language specialists at Indiana University, there’s now a free iPad app that provides an interactive tutorial for the Pashto script. The kicker? It’ll work in even the most remote areas because the program resides on the device and does not require 3G or Wi-Fi Internet access.
Christopher Atwood, chair of IU Department of Central Eurasian Studies and interim director of the Central Asian Region (CeLCAR), said, "Americans are finding themselves thrown into contact with Pashtuns and the Pashto language without having the time for much formal classroom experience. Portable tools like this will help them make the most of any formal instruction.”
What do users have to look forward to? The application provides users with the opportunity to watch and listen to video recordings of Pashto speakers pronouncing each letter of the alphabet. Plus, it gives them a range of opportunities to practice reading and writing and trains them to recognize the various shapes of the letter in their context. The app isn’t available yet – it’s currently being reviewed by Apple and if approved will be available through the company’s app store this month – but the Indiana developers are already preparing a version for several smartphones and a version for the BlackBerry and Android-based tablets as well.
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