A Look at the Amharic Language

Method and Conclusion. See here.

Results. A ratings system was designed in terms of how difficult it would be for an English-language speaker to learn the language. In the case of English, English was judged according to how hard it would be for a non-English speaker to learn the language. Speaking, reading and writing were all considered.

Ratings: Languages are rated 1-6, easiest to hardest. 1 = easiest, 2 = moderately easy to average, 3 = average to moderately difficult, 4 = very difficult, 5 = extremely difficult, 6 = most difficult of all. Ratings are impressionistic.

Time needed. Time needed for an English language speaker to learn the language “reasonably well”: Level 1 languages = 3 months-1 year. Level 2 languages = 6 months-1 year. Level 3 languages = 1-2 years. Level 4 languages = 2 years. Level 5 languages = 3-4 years, but some may take longer. Level 6 languages = more than 4 years.

This post will look at the Amharic language in terms of how difficult it would be for an English speaker to learn it.


Amharic, one of the major languages of Ethiopia, with millions of speakers, is said to be a very hard language to learn. It is quite complex, and its sentence structures seem strange even to speakers of other Semitic languages. Hebrew speakers say they have a hard time with this language.

There are a multitude of rules which almost seem ridiculous in their complexity, there are numerous conjugation patterns, objects are suffixed to the verb, the alphabet has 274 letters, and the pronunciation seems strange. However, if you already know Hebrew or Arabic, it will be a lot easier. The hardest part of all is the verbal system, as with any Semitic language. It is easier than Arabic.

Amharic gets a 4.5 rating, very hard to extremely hard.


Filed under Africa, Afroasiatic, Applied, East Africa, Ethiopia, Language Families, Language Learning, Linguistics, Regional, Semitic

4 responses to “A Look at the Amharic Language

  1. Hey Robert, do you think that Proto-Semitic orginated in Ethiopia? The mainstream theory is that the Semitic languages orginated in the Levant.

    • I am not sure where the Afroasiatic Homeland is. I have not studied AA very much.

      The amazing thing about AA though is that it is supposed to be 13-15,000 years old and it is a recognized family that they are actually reconstructing. These facts show that historical linguists who say that there is a time limit of 8,000 years or whatever on the comparative method are just wrong.

    • Johnny

      Most likely the Levant or northern Arabia (or even further south in the Arabian peninsula) given the dispersion. Many academics group the Afro-Asiatic or Semitic-Hamitic groups together and correlate using various measures including archaeology and recently genetics to track where people most likely moved. It probably followed population movements headed TOWARDS North Africa and then the Horn of Africa rather than from these places (as there wasn’t much movement that way during the relevant time periods) into the Levant.

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