Amharic Language: Interesting Facts & Resources

Amharic Language: Interesting Facts & Resources

The spotlight is on Amharic today! We’ve gathered some background information and interesting facts about the language. We also share our newest children’s books available in Amharic.

Where is Amharic spoken?

The national language of Ethiopia, Amharic is a Semitic language. Semitic languages are a branch of the Afro-Asiatic language phylum. You may already be familiar with the more famous Semitic language, Arabic. Overall, Semitic languages are spoken by about 330 million people throughout North Africa and Southwest Asia. Only about 25 million people speak Amharic worldwide. In Ethiopia, roughly 29.3% of people speak the language. Furthermore, there are small pockets of Amharic speakers outside of Ethiopia who live in Eritrea, the USA, Canada, and Sweden.

Amharic in the Washington DC Metro Area

In 2015, a little over 43,000 people in the Washington DC metro area spoke Amharic at home. The language is also one of six protected by the Language Access Act of 2004. The goal of the act was to, “provide greater access and participation in public services, programs and activities for residents” who had limited or no-English proficiency. Interestingly, the educational organization, CentroNía – which specializes in affordable, quality early childhood education for families of all backgrounds and ethnicities – graduated their first class of CDAs (Childhood Development Associates) in an Amharic-based course in 2020.

Interesting Facts About Amharic

Within the Rastafari religion, Amharic is considered a holy language. In fact, the religion itself is named in Amharic, with Ras coming from the Amharic word for head and Tafari referring to the former emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie.

Amharic was originally a local dialect within the Axum region of Ethiopia until the Solomonic dynasty was formed in the 13th century. The new head of the dynasty chose to build their palace in Axum and forever elevated the status of this regional dialect.

Amharic is written in Ethiopic script. Ethiopic is considered the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox church and is the Semitic language from which Amharic descended.

Page from Who Are We

Amharic Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

If you interact with children who speak Amharic, or are learning the language, you may want suggestions on some of the best bilingual children’s books. The Living in Harmony series is a useful resource to discuss universal themes of kindness and respect while learning about a new culture.

Are you interested in learning about other languages as well?  Check out our series of posts on world languages, including Hmong, Cherokee, Hindi, Russian, and Japanese!

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