Thursday, August 24, 2006

Amharenya- "Amharic"

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 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!


Brianna Heldt said...

So awesome that you guys are committed to learning Amharic!!!

chel said...

Thanks for sharing, I was wonder what you were using.

richlisad said...

Thanks Heather. I have been using only the Lonely Planet phrasebook, and can already hear my girls skickers at my pronounciation, so a software help is something I would appreciate.


JunieB said...

Thanks for the info - these products look much better than anything I've found so far. Can I ask how long you have been using them, and/or about how long it took (or is taking) you to progress through the first one?

Heather said...


Hmm, that's a hard one to answer. I've had the program for maybe about 7 months now. But for the past two months I've really slacked off. Last week I started back into it again. I have mastered about 1/2 of the vocabulary words on the EZ version, which is a pretty decent amount of words for a beginner. I know about 3/4 of the Amharic characters (alphabets), which is on Amharic 101. I really can't move on to Amharic 102 until I completely master the Alphabet and can read. I'm learning to sound out words right now. The CD makes it really easy, as it will give you a word written in Amharic and when you're ready to hear it pronounced, you click the button. Then the next word it gives you will use at least one of the letters that was in the previous word. We also have post it notes all around our house that label things. Once I master all the words, I take them down and put up new ones. I'm working on personal pronouns right now and variations on them. It's seriously taking a lot of committment though. I don't really think it's necesary to learn the kids' language; it's just something I have a genuine drive and desire to do. Are you wanting to learn Amharic too?

JunieB said...

Hi Heather - yes, I'm hoping to learn some Amharic too. I'm in the process of my home study, and I'm requesting the referral of an older child. So my first goal is communication while in Ethiopia and the first months at home, but I also hope to help/encourage my child to maintain her native language. The general consensus seems to say that will be hard, if not impossible, but I figure it's worth a try. (I'm not a big fan of people telling me something is impossible. Heh.)

It sounds like you have made pretty good progress in your 7 months - I have at least a year to work on this, so I think it's worth it for me to try. I do like learning new languages, and it will be something concrete to do while I'm waiting. Maybe I'll just get the 101 and EZ programs to start, and then if I'm at the point where I can progress I can always buy the other ones then.

Thanks for the info - and it helps to know that someone else is working on the language too. If I get discouraged I'll just remind myself, "Hey, Heather did it, so get going." :-)


Anonymous said...

Does the program help with writing the language? I'm sponsoring a child in Ethiopia and while I will never speak to him, i would like to learn how to write his language and it looks to be in syllables. If i wrote their words as we understand them, would they? Like if we wrote ewedeshalo would they know that means I love you? Or would the characters be necesary.

Anonymous said...

It's great to hear that you're dedicated to learning Amharic, or as we Ethiopians call it Amharigna, so as to teach your kids.
My advice to you is to look for an Ethiopian restaurant in your vicinity (believe me, there are a many through out the country) via internet. Friend the owners, I'm sure they would love to help you out in learning the language. Hope this helps.

God Luck,
(in amharic --> Melkam Idel)

John Moxford said...

Learning amharic has never been made easier. I came across this wonderful resource that helps you learn amharic in the fastest and easiest way. Check this out

Becky Sanders said...

Hi, Heather! This is Becky Sanders in Vermont. I was trying to find an Amharic program to help Emily relearn her Amharic, but there is so little to choose from. looked like the best option for her, but I didn't want to just trust the website for all that money and couldn't find any "independent verification" about its worth. I put it off and tried again this morning. First thing, top pick on google was your site, and though I didn't pay attention to the author, when you mentioned Avery, I went back and checked. Not only did I find "independent verification", I found a "trusted source"! Thanks for helping us out - AGAIN - even if it was a rather circuitous route this time. Emily will love to hear who told me to go ahead and get the program!! Perhaps I'll have her tell your mom all about Amharic. She'll probably get a kick out of that! Thanks again.


Hannibal said...

Amazing! This post is invaluable (as you have heard numerous times already) as a source to verify that the EZ products really do work and are extensive enough to help you really grasp the programme. I'm going to try the programme. I hope to hear how your progress goes! Ama-sega-nal-who-wei(Thanks to God) All the best!

Anonymous said...

Good review Kaitlyn. I bought Amharic The EZ Way from after reading your review about 9 months ago. I was concerned about the cost initial, but it was worth the money. I found it to be useful as well. My vocabulary and speech has improved a lot. My husband is Ethiopian and he tells me that my Amharic pronunciation is great (still has accent though). So that's my two cents worth. Dehna hunu