Amharic (አማርኛ Amarəña) is a sematic language that is spoken mainly in Ethiopia. Though there are many dialects that are spoken throughout Ethiopia (including Amharic, Tigrinya, Oromiffa/Affan Oromo, etc), Amharic is the most popular and widely used. Since it is the working language of the Ethiopian government, it has gained an official status and it is used throughout the country.
There are ninety languages that are spoken in Ethiopia (according to the 1994 Ethiopian census conducted by Ethnologue). Amharic is spoken by more than 17 million people, which is about one third of Ethiopia’s population (and another third speak Oromo language). It has been the language of the court and the dominant population group in Highland Ethiopia since the late 13th century. It is spoken to some extent in every province, including the Amhara region.
The history of Amharic language traces back to the 1st millennium B.C. to the days of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Historians explain that immigrants from southwestern Arabia crossed the Red Sea into present-day Eritrea and mixed with the Cushitic population. This union resulted in the birth of Ge’ez (ግዕዝ), which is the language of the Axum Empire of Northern Ethiopia. It existed between the 1st Century A.D. and the 6th Century A.D. When the power base of Ethiopia shifted from Axum to Amhara between the 10th Century A.D. and the 12th Century A.D., the use of the Amharic language spread its influence, hence becoming the national language.
They writing system, which uses a semi-syllabic system, is called Feedel (ፊደል). It has 33 basic characters with each having 7 forms for each consonant-vowel combination. Unlike Arabic, Hebrew or Syrian, Amharic is written from left to right.
Amharic is also one of the most widely studied languages in Ethiopia. It is the also used as a medium of instruction for primarily level education in Addis Ababa, capital city of Ethiopia. It is part of the school curriculum in most elementary and secondary levels of education. It is also studied in various universities in America and other developed countries as an elective course.
Knowledge of the Amharic language is essential to understanding Ethiopian culture. Amharic is very useful to scholars in anthropology, history, and archaeology as well as in linguistics, since Ethiopia is a land of great history and treasures. Others can also benefit from learning Amharic including international non-profit groups such as The Red Cross, Peace Corps, as well as United States diplomats and advisors who continuously work in Ethiopia. With the emerging of new business opportunities in Ethiopia and flourishing tourism, more and more people are turning to programs such as our Amharic The EZ Way to learn every-day-use Amharic. In addition to this demographics, Ethiopians in diaspora (especially in the US and Europe) have spouses and children that crave to learn Amharic to maintain their heritage and link to the Ethiopian community.