According to the Foreign Services Institute (FSI), Pashto language is linguistically and culturally considered significantly different from English and is placed in category four with regards to its level of difficulty for an English speaker (FSI, 2011). It requires eleven hundred class hours or forty-four weeks to reach to a General Professional Proficiency level 3 in speaking (S3) and reading (R3) (FSI, 2011). For an English speaker, Pashto can be very difficult to learn because of a variety of reasons. These problems may include grammatical structure, limited vowels, strange alphabets, Arabic writing script, drastic cultural differences, etc. To address this issue, one need to understand what are the real difficulties/problems for an English speaker to learn Pashto language? An exploratory approach is needed to find out the most salient problems involved in Pashto learning.
Unlike English, Pashto is an ergative language. Because of the absence of any English language structures similar to ergativity, ergativity presents a significant obstacle for English speakers as they gain skill in speaking Pashto. As Pashtu language has a split feature of ergativity, it clearly appears in Pashto when someone learns the past tense. Also, to English speakers, an ergative construction may appear to be an exotic feature of Pashto. However, according to Trask (1996), hundreds of ergative languages have been described by modern linguistics. According to other sources, one in four languages spoken in the world show ergative features.