by Fikirte Teka

Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic country with a great variety of indigenous languages spoken in the country. A country of up to 90 indigenous languages and more than 200 dialects. The official working language of Ethiopia is Amharic, with its own distinctive writing system, while Afan Oromo, Tigrigna, Guraghiegna, Sidama, Somali languages are widely spoken.

English is understood in most hotels, tourist sites, and major towns. The language is also used at various offices. It is also the medium of instruction in secondary and higher education institutions. In addition to English, there are schools, of which medium of instruction are foreign languages such as French, Arabic, and Italian; and there are Ethiopians who speak these languages perfectly.

Time & Calendar
Ethiopia is three hours ahead of GMT. Ethiopia has its own calendar, which has 12 months, each with 30 days; and the 13th month, namely Pagumen with five days, and six days in each leap year. The Calendar is 7 years behind the Gregorian calendar. Ethiopian New Year falls on the 11th of September and the 12thof September on leap year.

Addis Ababa
The name of the city, in Amharic, means “new flower”. Founded in 1886 by Emperor Menelik II, it is located at 2,500 meters above sea level in one of the highest parts of the Entoto mountain chain (3,000 meters above sea level). It enjoys an excellent climate all year round, with an average temperature of 25°C. Addis Ababa is a pleasant city with interesting museums and one of the largest open air markets in Africa, known as the “Mercato”. Addis is a home for several buildings, monuments, and streets that have had significant historical backgrounds. It has also a good number of restaurants and discotheques.

One of most impressive architectural feat of the time was the EmperorHaile Selassie’s former palace inside sidist kilonear Entoto, which is now housing Addis Ababa University and the institute of Ethiopian Studies’ Ethnological Museum. Exhibits here represent the best of the arts and crafts of the country and give an in-depth insight into the various peoples of Ethiopia. Addis Ababa has various museums, including the National Museum known to be the best museum in Africa, where cultural and archaeological relics, including a plaster cast of “Lucy,” the 3.2 million-year-old Hominid, are displayed.

Today, Addis Ababa has emerged from the strong foundation of its unique history spanning almost a century and half to become a true metropolis of Africa hosting major international conferences, events, peace seminars, festivals and exposition to mention being the seat of the African Union and several other regional and international organizations. With the eminent completion of new roads, electrified railways and entire business and residential districts in sight, Addis is set to become influential and bustling capital of Africa.

Using transportation
There are number of public and private transportations here in Addis and its surroundings. Privately owned and run taxi vehicles are available for 24 hours. Private blue cabs and relatively more expensive yellow cabs are also in plenty in the city but do not have fixed rates except those which have come recently, new yellow taxies. And with blue cabs,establishing the fare is advised before getting into the vehicle, whereas the public transportations like minibus taxi, different kind of public buses and train also available for shared usage, which are the cheapest, despite the crowd during rush hours.

Ethiopian Amharic Phrases
Learn a few words of Amharic. Unlike the Latin alphabet, the vowels in Amharic are contained in the 7 forms of the main characters of the Amharic script, which can make learning written Amharic difficult. But, here are a few words one to cross rivers.

1. Days of the week
Sunday Ihud
Monday Segno
Tuesday Maksego
Wednesday Erob
Thursday Hamus
Friday Arb
Saturday Kedame

2. Asking Directions and some commands

Where is it Yet new?
Where? (Direction Wodet?
Street/road Menged
Where is the hotel? Hotelu yet new?
Where are you going? Yet iyehedek(M)esh(F) new?
Please stop her Ezihkum(M) Kumi(F)
Come Na (M) Ney (F) nu (plural)
Go Hid (M) Hig(F) Hidu (plural)
Stop Kum (M)Kumi (F) Kumu(plural)

3. Frequently used words

Today Zare
Now Ahun
Tomorrow Nege
Yesterday Tilant
Quickly Tolo
Slowly Kes
Mr. Ato
Mrs. Weyzero
Miss Weyzerit
I Ene
You Ante/MEnante/M & F
Ersewo/old person
He, She Esu, Essoa
We Egna
They Ennessu
What? Min?
Who? Man?
When? Metche?
How? Endet?
Why Lemin?
Which Yetignaw?
Yes (allright Eshi
No Aydelem/Ayhonm
Excuse me Ykirta
I am Sorry Aznalehu
Good Tiru/melkam
Bad Metfo
Hello Halo

Good morning EndeminAderk/(M)sh(F)
Good Afternoon EndeminWalke/(M)sh(F)
Good evening EndeminAmeshu/k(F)sh(F)
Good bye Dehnahunu/hun(M)hugne(F)
How are you? Tenayistitilgn/endemenen(M)/esh(F)
You’re welcome Minim aydel
What is your name Simeh(M)sh(F) man no?
My name is Sime______no
Where do you come from Keyetmetu? h (M)sh(F)
I come from Ke__Metahu
My country is Hagere ____no
Can you speak Amharic? AmaregnaTenageraleh(M)esh(F)
Only a little Tinish
I want Ifelegalehu
I like it Tesmamtognal

3. Numbers
1 Aned
2 Hulet
3 Soset
4 Arat
5 Amist
6 Sidist
7 Sebat
8 Semmint
9 Zetegn
10 Asser
20 Haya
30 Selasa
40 Arba
50 Hamsa
60 Silsa
70 Seba
80 Semanya
90 Zetena
100 Meto
1000 shi
10,000 Asershi
100,000 Metoshi

Tipping & Etiquette
While tipping is not mandatory in Ethiopia, it is customary in many circumstances for service, especially at almost all sit-down restaurants which offer table service and many food servers depend on tips as an essential part of their wage. Most well organized restaurants, Hotels and Resorts includes 10% service charge.

Keep in mind that those who provide service are often dependent on tip income and generally are grateful for any tips received, especially when prompt and exceptional service has been provided. Tipping is the means by which to acknowledge good service.


Fikirte Teka

Fikirte is a regular contributor on the blog. She is a graduate on Ethiopian languages and literature from KETC and in Business Administration and Information Systems from AAU.

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