Will Amharic be AU’s lingua franca ?

When the African Union (AU) unveiled a commemorative statue of Haile Selassie I who was one of the founding leaders during the establishment of the then OAU the present AU on last Sunday, rumors also went viral on social media regarding the official acceptance of Amharic as one of the AU’s working languages.

However, the news was found fake later. In any case, The Ethiopian Herald approached experts and entertained their views on the significance, potent and appropriateness of the language to be among the lingua franca of the African union.

Bezawit Fiseha, Linguistics Lecturer at Selale University believes that Amharic is somehow simple to learn and apply. As to her, most of the foreigners who come to Ethiopia have enabled to speak the language  very shortly. Particularly, those who speak Arabic have more chance to learn Amharic easily as it has some similar words and voices due to the same family [Semitic] of languages.

Globally, most of international organizations use the official language of the country where they make their base. As to her, the public has a right to be informed about the summits about its continent and particularly by the organization that has headquarters in their capital. “It is late but should be implemented shortly.”

Amharic has been speaking in neighboring countries and other nations where most Ethiopians live in. The technology advancement, online translation would help users to use it easily.

If it is implemented, the assemblies and invited participants of AU will communicate with public using Amharic through time. Ethiopians will also develop their language. Furthermore, it would be also one stride to the AU to add one more native African language that has hundreds of millions of speakers to its five working languages of which four of them do not have African origin. And even the Amharic letters are not that much difficult to learn compared to Arabic and other languages, she tells.

Hailemelekot Agizew is a Senior Cultural Heritage Conservator and Researcher at the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage. He states that Amharic is spoken by more than 50 million peoples as mother language and over 100 million as a second language in the country. Similarly, it is the second largely speaking Semitic language next to Arabic in the world. It also works in neighboring countries such as Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan, N. Somalia (Somali land) as a business and second language. It has a great value to strengthen people’s relations and business activity among the peoples of the Horn, he notes.

Next to the Sabean and Geez languages, it has been serving as government or working language so that it has been the oldest language. The language has been the main tool in the country to write various books, plays, songs and other art pieces. Several local and international media such as Radio Moscow, VoA, DW and BBC that broadcasted from home and abroad have been used and still using Amharic as their main medium to transmit messages to the public, he says adding, the language has been also used both in oral and script as conventional communication instrument and as an academic and working language of the government.

It is also a lingua franca to various refugees from Somalia, Eritrea and South Sudan sheltered in Ethiopia. Therefore, Africa would be pride of it, if the language is included among the union’s working languages. Similarly, Ethiopians would easily understand about the policy and other continental decisions made by the AU, he underlines.

“Some of the AU languages like Portuguese have low number of speakers compared to Amharic. Therefore, we have various reasons to include Amharic as a six AU languages with various grounds including origin, history, number of speakers and the value it would employ to strengthen the people’s relations of the continent.”

Both experts believe that the country has basic grounds to request the AU to make Amharic one of its working languages.

The Ethiopian Herald February 19/2019



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