The inhabitants of the Republic of Ethiopia speak almost 88 languages. Unfortunately, some of the dialects are now either extinct or endangered. These languages are drawn from three separate families. The largest family is the Afroasiatic family which consists of both Cushitic and Semitic languages. The second family is the Omotic family of languages spoken within Ethiopia. The last family is the Nilo-Saharan that has several languages. Nevertheless, the official languages spoken in Ethiopia are Oromo and Amharic languages. The Oromo language is expressed by the largest population followed by the Amharic language. Due to the Federal laws of Ethiopia, the Amharic language is considered the official language despite having the second largest population of speakers. It is also used as the medium of passing knowledge in primary schools though Tigrinya and Oromo are slowly taking over. English is the language used for passing knowledge and skills in the universities and secondary schools within the nation.

The Oromo language is spoken by 24,930,000 people who are 33.8% of the population of Ethiopia. The number includes both the young and old generations. People from all walks of life speak Amharic totaling to an estimated 21,634,000 speakers. This is about 29.3% of the total population of both urban and rural parts of Ethiopia. You can easily find many Ethiopians speaking their native language alongside English or Oromo and Amharic together. The residents also speak the minority languages; especially the older generation. It is also easier to learn the Amharic language more than Oromo due to its musical nature. Additionally, one Amharic word can form many phrases.

Some of the common phrases in both Oromo and Amharic languages that a visitor can easily learn include: in Amharic, one can say "Seh-lahm" to mean "Hello/Peace", or say "Awo" to mean "Yes". In Oromo, one says "akkam" to mean "hello", and "nagaatti" to mean "bye".

One of the minority languages spoken by people in Ethiopia is the Somali language. Approximately 4.6 million people, that is 6.25% of the population, speaks Somali. The second language is the Tigrinya language spoken by 4.3 million persons which are about 5.86% of the population. The other minority languages include Sidamo spoken by 2.9 million people (4.84%), Wolaytta spoken by 1.6 million people (2.21%), Gurage language is spoken by 1.48 million people (2.01%), and Afar language having 1.28 million speakers (1.74%). Some of the languages that are facing extinction or are endangered because of few speakers are Ongota, Gafat, Weyto, and Mesmes languages.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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