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July 16, 2012

A Brief Look At The Amharic Language

What is the Amharic language?

Amharic, also called Amarinya or Amerigna, is one of the most commonly spoken and understood languages in Ethiopia. It is particularly the second most common primary language in Ethiopia, after Oromo. Moreover, Amharic is a Southern Semitic language, from the same broad language family as Hebrew and Arabic. Unlike Hebrew and Arabic, Amharic is written from left to right, using the Ge’ez alphabet.

The alphabet has 33 basic letters, and each letter has 7 forms. The basic letters are consonants, and the form is dictated by the vowel sound that follows. Some people consider each form of each letter to be counted independently, meaning that Amharic could have over 250 letters; this can make learning to write the Amharic language quite tricky!

The Amharic language can be transliterated into the Latin alphabet, but there is no single universally agreed on transliteration system for this. This means that it is common to see different spellings for the same word when it is transliterated into the Latin alphabet.

Primary school students in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, and in many major cities across the country, have their education delivered in the Amharic language. Additionally, Amharic is taught as a separate subject across the country, to both primary and secondary school students. There are several regional dialects of the Amharic language, all of which are considered mutually intelligible.


Where is the Amharic language spoken?

Amharic is one of five official languages; the other four are Afar, Oromo, Somali, and Tigrinya. It has remarkably served as the official language for the Ethiopian government since the fourteenth century. Only in 2000, The Ethiopian government recognised Afar, Oromo, Somali, and Tigrinya as official languages of Government alongside Amharic. Amharic is also the official language of business and commerce, the army, and local government administration, as well as the official language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

As there are around 80 languages spoken across Ethiopia, the Amharic language serves as a lingua franca. As of 2021 data, Within Ethiopia, over 31 million people speak Amharic as their first language. Besides, over 25 million people speak Amharic as a second language. This makes it the most widely spoken and written language across Ethiopia.

The predominant native language differs significantly by region in Ethiopia. Amharic is predominant in the Amhara region of the country. It is also spoken by over 2.5 million emigrants across the world. In addition, Amharic is spoken in some neigbouring countries including Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is thought that around 90,000 Eritreans speak Amharic.

Followers of the Rastafari movement believe that the Amharic language is sacred, and so often learn it as a second language. This means that there is a notable number of people in Jamaica who understand Amharic. Consequently, numerous Reggae songs are performed and written in Amharic. The word Rastafari itself is Amharic.


The Amharic language origin

Amharic has a long history, having been spoken for over 2000 years. The name Amharic derives from the Amhara region in the north of Ethiopia, where the language originated. The language evolved from the now-dead language Ge’ez. Furthermore, Cushitic languages in the region influenced Amharic over the past 2000 years.

The language gained prominence as it became the language of government in the fourteenth century, but it was a common language across the region from the 9th century. This change occurred as the seat of national governance moved from Axum to the Amhara region in the late thirteenth century.

Amharic has only been a written language for the past 500 years or so and uses the Ge’ez alphabet, also known as Fidel, which means letter. There are some surviving songs and poems written in Amharic in the fourteenth century.


English to Amharic Translation 

Less than one percent of Ethiopians speak English. For this reason, translating to Amharic is critical to reaching a large Ethiopian audience. The number of people who speak Amharic grows every year. The number of Ethiopians who spoke it as their first language has increased from 21.6million speakers in 2007 to over 31 million in 2021. This continually growing audience means that with every passing year, the potential value of translating a text from English to Amharic increases.


Renaissance Translations’ Amharic Translation Services

Our company provides professional English to Amharic translation in all subject fields. When translating to Amharic, a good translator will ensure that the target text looks as an original text. At Renaissance Translations, we pride ourselves on working with professional Amharic translators who can translate your project accurately.

If you’d like to know more about our Amharic translation services, you can call us on 0161 3940408 or e-mail info@renaissance-translations.com.

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