The official languages of Eritrea are Arabic, English, and Tigrinya. Modern Standard Arabic is considered the main educational language of Eritrea and is taught in schools throughout the country. English was only introduced to the country during the 1940s but has since become the main business and work language. Tigrinya is an Afro-Asiatic language that is spoken mainly in Eritrea as well as Northern Ethiopia. This dialect originated in the area known as the Horn of Africa.
Language demographics are reasonably hard to come by due to the lack of reliable data in the nation. The latest United Nations figures estimate that approximately 5.1 million people are living in the country today. According to statistics from the Eritrean Ministry of Information, around 80% of the country is literate in at least one language.
Tigrinya and Modern Standard Arabic are somewhat similar regarding pronunciation, and there are a few phrases that are easy to learn before travelling to the country. In Tigrinya "hello", is pronounced as "se-lam", which is similar to the Modern Standard Arabic "sa'laam", also used as a greeting. Thank-you in Arabic is said as "shuk-ran" while in Tigrinya the phrase is somewhat harder, pronounced as "yek-en-iy-eley". Although many in the country understand English, the effort to use a few phrases in Tigrinya or Arabic will be much appreciated.
Minority languages in the country are diverse with many Afro-Asiatic and Nilo-Saharan dialects being used on a daily basis by many in Eritrea. Dahlik and Tigre are the most prominent Afro-Asiatic languages spoken, but other variations such as the Afar, Beja, Blin, and Saho are also prevalent. The Kunama and Nara Nilotic ethnic minorities in the country, who live in the northern and northwestern part of Eritrea, speak Nilo Saharan dialects named after their respective ethnicity. Italian is also reasonably common due to the country having a colonial past linked that is linked to Italy.
This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018
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