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Ethiopian Amharic Language for Adoptive Parents

Updated on October 2, 2016

Ethiopian Alphabet

Amharic Hello - So Say "Selam" in Ethiopia!

Amharic is hard. As a traveler, its my rule to always want to have a bunch of native phrases at my disposal. On this particular trip, the stakes were higher, this is my daughter's homeland... I must do even better... and then I started trying to learn. Amharic is really hard. And its only one of over 80 languages spoken in Ethiopia. "Yenageralu Ingleezigna?" Do you speak English is a really good phrase for travelers to Amharic speaking Ethiopia.

I speak some French, Spanish, German, Italian.. so I'd encountered different conjugations for the sexes, the ages, the hierarchy, different sentence order... but Amharic... its got all that and more... its hard to get the mouth around. Just try to get a handle on the word "Thank you" "Amessagganalehugn", the most basic of tourist phrases... eight syllables in that word alone... I was stumped. And this was just the spoken language. Forget the written language. Amharic is the language of Addis Ababa, the capital and of the Amhara people... but its hard. It sounds like Arabic, the script is as hard to consider as Japanese, and there are all sorts of political landmines to navigate in its conjugation.

I stumbled through miserably mangling what little I'd managed to absorb.

So "MAH fer" (embarrassed)

I like to blame it on "Mama brain." But I still intend to make an effort for both of us. So here's where I'll accumulate my research... will I ever be able to speak?

I'd like to respond "Chigger yeh-LEM" (no problem)... but I know better!

I'd wish you good luck, but I don't know its translation!

Ciao (yes, the Italian one, they use it!). See below for more handy phrases to use around the home!

The Blushing Habesha Babe

This design for our little "mimi" (Amharic term of endearment for girls) is part of the full family line I made during our wait to adopt from Ethiopia
This design for our little "mimi" (Amharic term of endearment for girls) is part of the full family line I made during our wait to adopt from Ethiopia | Source

Shout it Out in Amharic

Ethiopian Pride Tshirts

I was inspired to design these shirts in anticipation of our trip to Ethiopia. I knew we'd stand out as tourists (Ferenge) on the streets of Addis so I thought it would be fun to proclaim our friendliness, and our new international family status with shirts that read "hello," "Mom," "Dad," "Sister,""Brother" etc in Amharic. A great gift for those adoptive families about to travel. It also made for a great photo op of our new family and baby "mimi" to send to those waiting anxiously at home.

The Ethiopian Kids Clapping Song

Lonely Planet Ethiopian Amharic Phrasebook
Lonely Planet Ethiopian Amharic Phrasebook

We used this Amharic Phrasebook on our trip to Ethiopia. We were there 2 weeks and really found it useful for connecting to the people we met.

 

Amharic on your Bookshelf - Travel books for the tourist to Ethiopia

I bought this phrase book for our trip. Some are better than others at showing the intonations of the language. It's a drop in the bucket really! I had hoped to play an amharic CD at night while I'm sleeping for subliminal learning, but it has this annoying beep in between each phrase... can't sleep to that! The good point is that you do hear how the words are REALLY supposed to sound!

Amharic Language links - Words on the web

I'm accumulating links as a way to buy time before actually having to buckle down and take a stab at it. My big excuse so far is that I'd like to use the Rosetta Stone, but they don't actually make an Amharic package... write them and request it, I did... it made me feel a little bit better.

An Amharic Language disc to help you Learn

Amharic Bean Bag Learning tools
Amharic Bean Bag Learning tools

Amharic Language Tools for Kids

I have to admit, these kids resources are a heck of a lot more fun that the adult ones... often the production values are better too! I say; learn like a child! These Beanbags from Amharic Kids are a great way to make a game out of learning the numbers (they also have a Bagbean bag set for colors).

Ahndt... Hoolet... Sost... Go!

The Kids in the Orphange like to flock the Ferenge.
The Kids in the Orphange like to flock the Ferenge.

An Adoptive Family's Favorite Amharic Phrases

Win big points for the Ferenge (Foreigner)!

We had two weeks in Ethiopia. We were pretty sheltered while we were there. But still, we found a little Amharic goes a long way with everyone from drivers, to cooks to kids... Below are our favorites. (they're not "spellings" just pronunciation guides)

People:

Foreigner = Ferenge

Ethiopian = Habesha

Little Girl (endearment) = Mimi

Little Boy = Ma-Mush

Family = Beht-uh-Sehb

Mama = Eh-My-Ay

Papa = Ah-By-Ay

Sister = Eh-Heht

Brother = Wehn-Dimn

Aunt = Ah-Kast

Uncle = Ah-Got

Grandma = Set-i-yet

Grandpa = I-yet

Friend = Gwa-Deu-Nya

Amharic Niceties

Hello = Seh-LAHM

Goodbye = Ciao

Please (f) = ih BAH kesh

Please (m) = ih BAH keh

Thank you = AH-mah-say-guh-NAH-loh

Yes = OW

No = I-deh-LEHM

How are you? = in-DEM-min neh? (m)

How are you? = in-DEM-min nesh? (f)

I'm fine = Deh-na-ñAY:

My name is __ = SIH may ___

What is your name? (m) = SIH meh mah no?

What is your name? (f) = SIH mesh mahn no?

Sorry = AHZ nah lehu

Amharic Useful Words & Phrases:

No problem = Chigger yeh-LEM

Clever (or "Good Job!) = GO behz

Come (m) = Nah

Come (f) = Nay

Let's go = In-eh-HEEDT

Stop (m) = Koom

Stop (f) = KOO-mee

Stop it (m) = Tew:

Stop it (f) = Tay

Now! = ah HOON

Smile! = Sahk

Don't smile! = Ah-tuh SAHK -

Good = Tehr OO

Very good! = Tehr OO Beh-TAHM

Quick/ly = TOH-loh

Amharic Adjectives & Descriptors

Sad = MAH zihn

Mad = meh KOH that

Hot = Mook

Tired = dih KAHM

Shy = I nah fahr

Stinky (Bad smell) = meht-FOH SHIT-tah

Cold (temperature) = KAHZ kah zah

Strong = Tehn-KAH-rah

Funny / Happy = Dess TEHN ya

Happy / funny = DEHS tah

Slowly (Patiently) = Kuhss

Beautiful = KOHN-joh

Amharic Meals:

Eat! = BIH lah (m)

Eat! = BEE (f)

Thirsty = meh THE maht

Water = WOO hah

Coffee = BOO nuh

Lunch = meh sah

Amharic Endearments

Kiss me! = SAH-meñ

I love you (m) = Eh wed eh HA lehoo (slur the last part together)

Eh wed eh SHAH lehu I love you. (f)

My Sweet = yeh-nay tahfach

My Sunshine = yeh-nay tseh-HI (long i)

Amharic Numbers:

1 = Ahndt

2 = HOO let

3 = Sohst

4 = AH-raht

5 = AH-mist

6 = SIH dist

7 = SAH Baht

8 = SIH mint

9 = zeh TEHñ

10 = AH sir

Amharic for Kids - Tsehai Loves Learning

We bought this video for our daughter when she was an infant. Its a good way to get used to the sound of the language and the song and video is adorable with great morals and insights into family life. Maybe not the best way to try to learn a language or get ready for a trip, but totally worth it anyway to familiarize kids with sounds of the language. We played it for our daughter a lot when she was a toddler in hopes of keeping the neural pathways of her native language alive. Perhaps when she's older it will make learning the language easier for her. Google it; its worth a try!


Amharic iPhone iPad aps
Amharic iPhone iPad aps

Amharic Translation Aps

Amharic at your Fingertips

Put Amharic at your fingertips with these iPhone & iPad aps. A great and inexpensive way to get started with the world's second most widely spoken semitic language and the official language of Ethiopia.

1) Amharic by David Alemu (icon featured in photo) - One of the most recommended Amharic aps with an easy to use interface to learn the characters & sounds of the Amharic Alphabet (fidel) and numbers and then to move on to basic vocabulary & phrases pronounced by a native speaker. David Alemu also offers a cute Amharic word game. $4.99

2) Amharic Pocket Guide by theNextTrain - like an audio visual flash card, this ap got pretty good reviews that recommend it for a traveler or beginner. You get to see the word in English, fidel (Amharic script) and then you can touch to have it pronounced. Includes useful travelers phrases under general categories. First version was reported to be buggy and incomplete, second version hopefully fixes the bugs. $9.99

3) UTalk HD Amharic Talk by Eurotalk - A fun colorful game-like interface. Once you've learned the characters and can type words, this ap allows you to type words using its built in amharic keypad and hear it pronounced by a native speaker. Gets middling reviews. Update anticipated soon. $9.99

Ethiopian Kids Songs - They get into your head!

I think one of the best ways to learn a language is to immerse yourself with eveything you can and music is definitely one of the most pleasant ways. Even better, kids really love seeing other kids. Its a great way to get them interested. This video of kids singing is catchy and the words are very clear... sometimes I almost think I understand it! (almost)

Share which Amharic language learning tools worked for you!

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    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 

      6 years ago

      Wish all these Amharic language learning tools had been around some 25 years ago when I learned the language. Had to rely on people to teach me.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      If you need Ethiopian clothes for your family please visit us www.ethiopianclohing.net we supply you with any clothing you need from Ethiopia.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 

      6 years ago

      Fascinating lens - thanks so much for sharing! Blessed by a Squid Angel for this wonderful resource!

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 

      6 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      I found this so very interesting. I love learning languages. It is interesting that there is different conjugations for the sexes and some of the words made me sort of cluck my tongue. I wish you much success in this endeavor. Angel Blessings.

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