Tigrinya and Amharic

Rare Languages we provide

Here at Vandu, we pride ourselves on being able to provide interpreting for the rarer languages needed by our customers. In this blog series, we’ll have a look at these wonderful languages and the unique people that speak them.

Tigrinya and Amharic

Amharic and Tigrinya are the main languages spoken by the Ethiopians and Eritreans, of Eastern Africa. The reason we’ve grouped these two languages together is that they are strongly intertwined, both deriving from the same ancestor and both sharing characters in their alphabet. Though there are many different ethnicities and relating languages in the region, Eritrea’s the main language is Tigrinya and it is widely spoken throughout the country, but particularly in its central and southern areas. It is thought that there are just under 7 million speakers of Tigrinya. Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia and has around 22 million speakers; (interestingly, Oromo has a slightly higher number of speakers).

Amharic is a descendant of the Ge’ez script, which is thought to date back to the 9th Century BC – the link is easily recognisable when looking at the Amharic alphabet which share many characters with the Ge’ez script. While Ge’ez and Tigrinya also share many alphabetical characters, the link between the two is not so clear; many historians and linguists believe that Tigrinya is as old as Ge’ez, however the earliest evidence of written Tigrinya is from the 13th century, more than a few centuries after the earliest evidence of Ge’ez.

Whilst Amharic and Tigrinya are considered sister languages, unfortunately the relationship between the two nations is not nearly as close. The Eastern Africans suffered a long war for Eritrean independence from 1961 to 1991, which was then followed by a two-year border conflict in 1998. There has been a “No war, no peace” policy ever since, which has been detrimental to both countries’ economies and their general world-standing.

Having said that, there is much to be said for the futures of these two countries. Both the economies enjoyed considerable growth between 2000 and 2015, and both countries enjoy incredibly varied ecological regions, boasting mountainous regions, desert-like environments, dense forest/jungle areas, should the two countries look to seriously invest in its tourism industries. Eritrea also has an incredibly low crime-rate and is rich in its natural resources, while Ethiopia is investing in its light manufacturing industry. The president of Ethiopia recently announced that they would accept Eritrea’s ownership of the town of Badme, which has been a longstanding problem for the two nations, this step in the right direction makes you wonder what these two countries could accomplish were they on better terms.

Do you require interpreting for Amharic or Tigrinya? They're two of the many rare languages we provide for here at Vandu. Call 01273 473986 or email for more information!