Learning Amharic: "YiQirta, algebanigm."

One of the pains, or shall I say challenges, of going to another country is the language barrier. When I went to China for a short visit, I had twisted my tongue and racked my brains just to at least communicate with the locals at the very basic level. But after a few embarassing attempts, I was resigned to using sign language and exagerrated facial expressions. Most of the Chinese did not understand my English, and I did not understand their Chinese—so I left it at that.

But it’ll be a totally different scenario in Ethiopia. I will be working there, interacting with my colleagues, other volunteers, and the locals on a daily basis. I have to learn the language as I can’t risk being lost in translation—not in a strange place with an unfamiliar culture.

Because it has not been colonized, Ethiopia remains as a multi-ethnic state with 83 languages and 200 dialects. The main three languages are Amharic, Afaan Oromo, and Tigrinya. The people in Gondar, the city where I will be posted, speak Amharic, so in the name of being a well-prepared volunteer, I have started taking my Amharic lessons through . . . tadah! . . . Youtube.

I found these really helpful Amharic lessons in Youtube designed by the Lion of Judah Society. I am sharing here some of Amharic words and phrases I’m trying to memorize. Hopefully, I will have mastered some of these before I set foot in Amharic land. So here we go . . .

Selamta! – Greetings!
Selam – Peace
Ameseginalehugn – Thank you.
I’shee – All Right/Okay
Awo – Yes
YiQirta – Excuse me/I’m sorry.
Algebagnigm – I do not understand.
I’bakish – Please
Indemin allu? – How do you do?
Betam Dehna Negn – Very well.
Indemin adderu – Good morning.
Indemin walu – Good afternoon.
Indemin ameshu – Good evening.
Sint new wagaw? – How much does this cost?
Yihe mindin new? – What is this?

qurs – breakfast
missa – lunch
irat – dinner
dabo – bread
meTet – beverage
bunna – coffee
shay – tea
chimaQee – juice
wiha – water
asama – pork
asa – fish
doro – chicken

polees tabeya – police station
hakeem baet – hospital
yemedhahaneet baet – pharmacy
suQ – store, shop
migib baet – restaurant
timhirt baet – school
baete kristeeyan – church
bagno baet – restroom

This is it for now. I am halfway through the first set. I don’t know if I’ll ever memorize everything before the thirty-first. But this, I gotta memorize by heart: “YiQirta, algebanigm.”

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