How am I learning to speak Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, and the language of children adopted from Ethiopia? Well, I prayed one day and said, "God, you know that the desire of my heart is to learn the language of my children so that I can be completely fluent and teach my family to be fluent and I'll help our two Ethiopian kids to learn English, yet maintain their fluency in Amharic and we'll be this really cool bi-lingual family so that someday we can all go to Ethiopiaa as missionaries and be completely able to communicate!" And then I went to bed and slept soundly all night. When I woke up in the morning, I opened my mouth and when I began to speak, (feel the excitement building!).......... Well, I opened my mouth and I still only speak English with any degree of fluency! But I had you going for a minute, didn't I?! :)
To answer all of the comments and emails I've received recently about Amharic, I bought a program for the computer from www.africanlanguage.com that has been extremely helpful. To help you eveluate whether this program would be helpful to you, I'll give you my review of the materials.
We bought package #3 pictured here. It was kind of expensive, but we have been extremely pleased with the materials. However, unless you have the time to invest in seriously studying as though this were a college course, this probably isn't a very good program for you. In order to progress through this program, it is essential that you learn the Amharic alphabet. This was overwhelming at first, as there are 200+ characters in their alphabet. But, once I got started, I quickly understood the patterns and caught on more quickly than I anticipated. It was work though. Now that I can easily recognize most of the letters, I am very happy that I took the time to do this. It has greatly improved my ability to pronounce Amharic words that I have never heard spoken by a native speaker. The reason for this is that there is no standardized way of spelling Amharic words using English letters. For example, the word for joy is usually seen spelled in English as "desta." However, a more accurate pronunciation of this word is "des-a-ta." If you are able to read this word written in Amharic, you would know right away the correct way to pronounce it. This program is great for people who are serious about really learning the language. If you are looking to learn just a few basic phrases to help you with your travels and with your Ethiopian kids, I still recommend the "EZ" program offered at this site. The speaker on this program is a native Ethiopian, so the accent is perfect, which I found to be very helpful. However, there may be better programs available if this is the level of Amharic you want to learn.
Also, I am blessed to have an Ethiopian friend who is kind enough to critique my blog and notify me of errors in the language! She's actually helped me more than she probably realizes. Rosa, thank you! You are a gift! Knowing you has been a treasure!
Also, we occasionally visit an Ethiopian church in our area. Nothing can teach you a language like total immersion.
I have been able to understand a lot about grammar using the lonely planet pictured here. Our local library also has it. When I'm being consciencous about learning Amharic, I carry this little pocket-sized book with me everywhere. I talk to Kaitlyn and Lucas all the time, using the book to help me.
Just a word of caution about this book though: It says that "I love you" is translated as "A-feck-a-shallow." So, that's what we told our Ethiopian kids in the video and in every card/letter we've sent them. When Avery went to Ethiopia, he was notified by the director of their orphanage that he was actually saying something rather romantic to the kids! "A-wad-a-shallow" is a much more appropriate way to tell your kids you love them. Actually, that's for a female. "A-wad-a-hallow" is how you'd say it to a male. Other than that, we haven't found any other problems with it. In fact, I highly recommend this book, as it is packed full of cultural information for when you travel. It is full of useful phrases in traveling.
Also, on the rare occasion that I run into an Ethiopian, I am not shy to practice my Amharic on them. I admit, it's a bit intimidating, especially when I say something to them and they don't even realize I'm speaking Amharic! But, it's taught me so much by taking the risk. And when they find out I'm actually trying to speak Amharic, they're usually very happy to hear this.
And to be honest, I do pray and ask God to help me to learn the language. I've been kind of lazy lately with studying, but when I actually work on it, asking God to bless me in what I'm doing has actually helped to give me understanding and perseverance to not give up. I watched my daughter Kaitlyn learn to read and write last year in Kindergarten. What an inspiration that little five-year-old is to me! Good luck in your endeavors to learn Amharic to all of you adoptive families out there. And rest assured, your kids will learn English far faster than you could ever hope to learn Amharic! I know that those of you who have already brought your kids home can attest to this!