Friday, May 27, 2011

We're gonna learn Amharic

We've decided to spend the summer working on learning Amharic. A few weeks ago I sent an email to all the members of an Ethiopian student organization at a local university, and I got a reply from a lovely young lady who is willing to tutor us. We met her last night, and I think she will be great. We will be meeting with her twice a week. She's going to help us with grammar and pronunciation while we work on learning vocabulary on our own.

To help us study, we'll be using the following -

  • "Let's Speak Amharic" by Bezza Tesfaw Ayalew. You can order the book and CD by writing to the National African Language Resource Center at the University of Wisconsin. The main problem with this book is that it is written almost entirely in Amharic. So to use it, you have to learn to read the language, which we hadn't really planned on doing. But, I've started working on it. I've been carrying around flashcards in my back pocket and I'm practicing during my free moments.
  • "Simple Amharic for Adoptive Families" by Amy Kendall - This is a small, spiral-bound book that comes with a CD. The main problem with this book is it's just a list of phrases, and it doesn't explain what each word in the phrase means. For example, "We're going to your school" is transliterated as "Wuh-DAH ahn-TEH tih-MIRT bayt ee-yeh-HEH-din nohw." Which part means "we" and which means "going" and which means "school" is a mystery. There is no way I can learn a language by memorizing a string of sounds with no meaning. However, once we advance some with our vocabulary, this book may become more useful.
  • "Amharic for Foreign Beginners" by Alem Eshetu. It took a long time to figure out how to get this book. I ended up ordering it from a seller in Canada. It hasn't arrived yet, but it looks promising.
  • An Amharic app for the iPad. This has been the most useful resource so far. It includes a list of vocabulary words organized into a couple dozen categories. When you select a word you can hear the pronunciation. It also has the words written phonetically in English letters. 
In other news, our revised homestudy arrived today. We will send it off to USCIS tomorrow.
Have a good long weekend!


  1. yay Kyra! I've been looking at lots of different learn Amharic resources, your opinions/reviews are so helpful. What is the app you are using?
    I don't have access to an Amharic tutor so will doing it pretty much on my own and really appreciate your thoughts and input, thanks!

  2. Great tip on the iPad app - going to the app store right now!!

  3. We also got an Amharic-English dictionary on the iPad, which has 33,000 words. It doesn't speak, but does have phonetic as well as Amharic spellings. The dictionary is not very useful right now, but I figure as we get a grasp of grammar and sentence structure it will become a useful resource.

  4. I need an Ipad. I totally agree with the Simple Lang. for Adoptive Families problem. It does not help for really understanding the language. However, it was helpful for us in Addis for the simple stuff. Good luck to you!!

  5. I got the Amharic app on my iphone and big-brother-to-be and I are having so much fun with it! He figured our right away how to say I love you mom and baby brother, sigh. Thanks so much for the recommendation Kyra!

  6. That's great, Anne! Good luck with your studying! I feel that it is helping with the wait - makes me feel like I am doing something productive.

  7. I'm afraid to say anything for fear of jinxing it but it does seem like the wait is getting easier. May anyway was super easy what with all the great weather and finishing up the school year. With the long summer stretching out before us I know I must keep busy in order to keep from going crazy with the wait. I'm actually teaching summer school for the first time this year, will keep me busy and the extra dolores are going straight into the adoption fund. How is the waiting going for you?

  8. Anne - it's been up and down. Send me an email address to if you want to know more. There's some stuff I've decided not to blog about. Or are you on facebook?

  9. Hello to all the Good people in here!
    I have developed an English-Amharic dictionary for android mobile phones and tablets. You can check it out here: It is reasonably priced and very flexible. It has got audio of all the Amharic characters plus simplified reading phonetics for the 2000 words the abridged dictionary has got. Help after purchase will be provided generously on the usage of the Dictionary. More features will come in the near future too. Feedback is hugely appreciated.
    Kind regards,

  10. hi Kyra-- Which iPad apps have you found most helpful in learning Amharic?

    --Mary Beth

    PS I am thrilled for your recent referral, as well as your more recent 'tipping point.' The love is beyond measurement...

  11. Hi Mary Beth,
    I'll post this on your blog as well. The resource I used most starting out is simply called "Amharic." If you go to the app store and search "Amharic" it will be the first one that comes up.
    There is also an Amharic dictionary, but I have found to be more user-friendly.
    Good luck!

  12. Free Amharic learning resource that does nothing to your pocket ;-)