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Despite being little known to much of the world, Amharic translation, interpretation, and localization services are in great demand. This is due to both to rapid economic growth and development in East Africa and the existence of large Ethiopian immigrant communities around the world.

The Amharic language (አማርኛ, Amarəñña) is a member of the Semitic language branch of the Afroasiatic language family. It is the native language of the Amhara people of Ethiopia, where it also serves as an official working language of the federal government as well as the official or working language of several Ethiopian states and a lingua franca among many other populations in Ethiopia. Currently, there are approximately 25.6 million speakers of Amharic, including 4 million who speak Amharic as a second language, making Amharic the second most widely spoken Semitic language after Arabic. It is also considered to be one of the fifty most important languages in the world, in terms of the number of speakers, and political, historical, and cultural importance.

There are approximately 3 million immigrant speakers of Amharic worldwide, including a significant number of Ethiopian Jews in the State of Israel and a significant population in the United States. The largest concentrations of Ethiopian immigrants in the United States can be found in the Washington, D.C. Metro Region, Los Angeles, and New York. In 2004, the Language Access Act in Washington, D.C. was implemented, allowing for public services to be available in six non-English languages, including Amharic.

The three main dialects of the Amharic language are Gondar, Gojjami, and Showa, all of which are mutually intelligible. Among these dialects, there are differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. The standard spoken and written form of the language is based on the speech of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

Like many other Afroasiatic languages, Amharic is classified as a symbolic fusional language, namely a synthetic language that builds words by modifying the root vowels, such as tooth->teeth, or sit->sat, and complex inflectional morphology. Nouns in Amharic are marked for two genders (masculine and feminine), two numbers, and four cases (nominative, genitive, accusative, and vocative). Adjectives are also inflected for case, number, and definiteness.

Amharic contains a highly complex verb system, wherein verb forms are derived by adding vowels and suffixes to the root verb form. Verbs are marked for person, gender, and number, and must agree with their subjects and occasionally with the direct and indirect object as well. There are at least ten classes of verbs in Amharic, two aspects (perfect and imperfect), and three moods (indicative, imperative, and optative). The typical word order for Amharic is subject-object-verb (SOV), although the object may precede the subject if it is topicalized.

The Amharic lexicon has been significantly influenced by other regional languages, particularly Arabic and the Cushitic languages (principally Oromo), with the latter comprising approximately 25% of Amharic vocabulary. Amharic utilizes the Ge’ez script, which is also used for most other Ethiopic languages. The Ge’ez script is an abugida (alphasyllabary) wherein a consonant-vowel sequence is written as a unit, and includes 26 consonantal letters. It is written from left to right.

FUN FACTS: Amharic has seven ways to write the sound “ha” (ሀ, ሃ, ኀ, ኃ, ሐ, ሓ, and ኻ), and therefore has 49 possible ways of writing “haha”! Ethiopia is also the only African country that has its own script (Ge’ez, which is also the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church).

At Piedmont Global Language Solutions (PGLS), we offer Amharic translation, interpretation, localization, and other language services. Whether you need to translate public information notices into Amharic, need an Amharic interpreter for a local community meeting, or want to localize your software product into Amharic to sell in Ethiopia, PGLS is here to help with all of your Amharic translation and language needs.

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