Congratulations to Autumn 2014 beginners’ students

Congratulations to the students who just finished the beginners’ course of Amharic lessons this Wednesday (17 Dec). We have had some great students of Amharic, who made a lot of progress and can now read and write feedels (Ge’ez letters used for Amharic language) and say a good range of sentences.
They have been working through their handouts well each week and they understand and can use different tenses and restructure words for negatives and other grammatical changes, under the expert guidance of our very professional tutor.
They have also learned some colloquial expressions and shared a few tips about Ethiopia for travel and living.
The course ended with handing out certificates. Comments included: “Very attentive, friendly and personalized teaching, lots of opportunity to improve quickly” and “I am really enjoying it”.
Many of them are keen to continue to the intermediate classes launching on 15 January and we are keen to take them forward, while also launching the next beginners’ classes on 13 January.

Some other excellent students (credit
Some other excellent students (credit

Ethiopia first African country for new climate change fund

Ethiopia has been the first country to secure funding from the newly launched ClimDev-Africa Special Fund (CDSF). It secured $1.1 million to strengthen its climate-information and early-warning systems.
The news was released in a press release from the Economic Commission for Africa, a United Nations regional body based in Addis Ababa, and came during the 20th Session of global climate negotiations (COP20) meeting in Lima, Peru. The fund was set up by the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank and the ECA.
The $136m ClimDev Special Fund (CDSF) gives grants to projects that will be put into action by national and regional organizations. Partners in the ClimDev-Africa Programme consider climate change to be a serious threat to Africa and fear it could undermine development and progress, including poverty reduction.
The money will support the second phase of building national capacity to monitor the weather, and in data analysis, interpretation, forecasting and dissemination. The National Meteorology Agency says it will continue the project after the current funding.
Severe weather such as drought and floods, has severe effects on food production as well as on infrastructure such as roads and power, in Ethiopia, as in many African countries. Ethiopia has sought to build its strategic responses. Having good quality climate data should support the economic development strategy of promoting agriculture and industrial growth. Previously Ethiopia received help in 2013 through the ECA’s African Climate Policy Centre.
Many development experts are working in Ethiopia on pioneering programmes including using science and data to support development. It is another reason many experts wish to learn Amharic, to help them further their knowledge.

Flooding in 2005 killed more than 150 in Eastern Ethiopia. (Credit China Economic Net
Flooding in 2005 killed more than 150 in Eastern Ethiopia. (Credit China Economic Net

Investors lend $1bn to Ethiopia for 6.625% Eurobond

There was good demand yesterday (4 Dec) when Ethiopia offered its first hard-currency Eurobond to the international market. International investors are increasingly keen to get involved in Ethiopia’s economy, one of the fastest-growing in Africa, spurring interest to learn Amharic in London.
Businesspeople and investors keen to visit Addis have been approaching us for Amharic classes. They join tourists, charity, volunteers and others with strong ties to Ethiopia.
The new bond is denominated in US dollars. Investors bid a total of $2.6bn according to the news reports. Ethiopia issued $1bn at 6.625% interest (towards the lower end of its target range) and will pay the money back after 10 years. The rate was good, similar to that obtained by Zambia.
The Financial Times reported : “The debut sees one of the biggest, most closed — and, some observers say, most promising — African nations joining a number of other countries in the region that have issued similar bonds in the past 5 years. Africa has become a magnet for pension funds, insurers and sovereign wealth funds seeking higher-yielding assets.”

Ethiopia needs $50bn over 5 years

The FT quotes Kevin Daly, senior portfolio manager at Aberdeen Asset Management, that the bond’s yield “is decent value for the deal given the limited knowledge and different nature of the Ethiopian economy and the challenges it faces compared to these countries”. According to a Bloomberg report he said Ethiopia made a strong case for infrastructure development and financing needs at investor meetings, “which suggests they will be looking to come back to the market in near term.”.
Bloomberg added that Finance Minister Sufian Ahmed said on 7 Oct that Ethiopia will probably need to invest about $50bn over the next 5 years, of which $10bn to $15bn may come from foreign investors. Most will be used to develop sugarcane plantations, a 6,000-megawatt hydropower dam on a tributary of the Nile River and the country’s railway network.


Claudia Calich, emerging market bond fund manager at M&G told the FT that Ethiopia was one of the region’s weaker credits: “I am concerned over lack of transparency and levels of SOE [state owned enterprise] debt.” Mark Bohlund, senior economist for sub-Saharan Africa at consultants IHS, said investors were attracted to Ethiopia on the back of “strong economic growth prospects and limited external indebtedness”. He added: “We wish to highlight that there are still non-negligible risks to repayment.”
Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan were the lead managers for the bond and Lazard advised the Federal Government of Ethiopia.

Fast 9% growth, limited foreign reserves

Ethiopia has some of the fastest growth rates in Africa, around 9%, according to the International Monetary Fund. According to Reuters, the IMF said in a September report that the risk of Ethiopia facing external and public “debt distress” remained low but said it was on the “cusp of a transition to moderate” risk. It estimated public debt at 44.7% of GDP in fiscal 2013/14. Ethiopia’s foreign reserves covered only 2.2 months of imports in 2013/14 and capacity to increase this remains under pressure due to limited capacity to increase exports and foreign investment.

African debt warning

According to the African Development Bank’s Making Finance Work for Africa website (, a few weeks ago the IMF warned African States against rushing to issue Eurobonds, saying they may face exchange-rate risks and problems repaying debts. African governments facing falling levels of foreign aid are on a borrowing spree to pay for new roads, power stations and other infrastructure, prompting concern this could raise debt levels and undermine growth.
According to Standard Bank, African governments and big businesses have issued a record $15bn in Eurobonds this year.

Amharic speakers wanted for 6-month paid research

Dr Matti Pohjonen has contacted us to see if we know of any fluent Amharic speakers, also speakers of Oromiffa, Tigrinya and Somali. Here is the advertisement if you know of anyone suitable. Students who want to learn Amharic in London, this is not for you, but we will list other events that may be of interest.


Oxford University Consulting is seeking 4 Researcher Consultants and 2 Senior Researcher Consultants for the Project “Online Hate Speech and Elections in Ethiopia”. The study will develop an empirically grounded understanding of the nature of the online debates before and after elections, with a specific focus on how different actors engage or fail to engage online in a polarized political environment. The researchers will be responsible for supporting the study analyzing media content.

The positions will be on a self-employed basis for approximately 15-20 hours per week and initially for 6 months, which may be renewable for a further 6 months. Additional hours may be available depending on experience and the needs of the project. Junior Researchers will be paid at a rate of £9/hour, Senior Researchers will be paid at a rate of £14/hour.

The candidates should have:
• Perfect command of Amharic and English and preferably of another language spoken in Ethiopia (Oromiffa, Tigrigna, Somali)
• Familiarity with social science research, with a particular emphasis on content analysis and interview techniques
• Familiarity with the social and political history of Ethiopia
• Proven ability to work independently
• Strong research ethics
• Ability to achieve results timely and under pressure
• A BA degree with a graduate degree strongly preferred

Senior Researchers are also expected to:
• Hold a graduate degree in a social science subject
• Have experience with software for quantitative research
• Prove their ability to supervise a team of researchers and ensure results are provided in a timely matter.

Applications should be sent to Dr Matti Pohjonen ( and should include:
• A curriculum vitae
• A cover letter, indicating the reasons for applying, and whether and to which extent the candidate fulfils the requirements for the position
• The name and the contact details of 2 references (for the position of Researcher) or 3 references (for the position of Senior Researcher)
• A writing sample (Up to 2,000 words for junior researchers and up to 5,000 words for senior researchers. Writing samples can include university papers, sections of master thesis, academic papers, newspapers articles, blog posts).

Applications will be collected on a rolling basis until 24 November 2014 (5pm GMT), and we strongly encourage applicants to apply before the deadline. Interviews will take place on 27 and 28 November either via Skype or phone or in person in London or Oxford. Informal queries can be sent to Dr Matti Pohjonen ( Please include either “Researcher” or “Senior Researcher” in the subject line of the email with both the informal queries and the job application.

Spreading Amharic language in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has more than 80 languages, but Amharic is the working language of the federal government. Millions of people – particularly those originally from Gojjam, Gondar, Western Wallo and Shawa as well as many people living in towns all over Ethiopia – have Amharic as their first language and millions more as their second language.
People who want to visit or work in Ethiopia will boost their enjoyment and their success if they can speak and read Amharic language, which we hope to achieve in our Learn Amharic beginners’ course in London starting this week.
Most Amharic speakers either initially identified themselves with their region such as a “Gondare” or – if they were part of the ruling elite – as “Ethiopians”. For this reason, Amharic was more to do with social groups, such as nobility, soldiers, settlers and clerics. It became the language of educated people who lived in towns and thus became closely intertwined with Ethiopian national identity.
Amharic had been known as the “language of the king” from the time at the end of the 13th century when King Yakuno Amlak (reign 1270-1285) overthrew the Zagwe dynasty. It took over from Ge’ez as the court language, but Ge’ez remained the language of literature, writing and liturgical uses and Amharic was used for oral communication.
The language spread further in the time of Zara Yakob (reign 1434-1468) when soldiers spread it south and to other regions as they collected taxes. By the first half of the 17th century a traveler could use it across the Ethiopian empire.
Amharic also began to replace Ge’ez for writing in the middle of the 19th century as Tewodros II (1855-68) and Menelik II (1889-1913) ordered their chronicles to be written in Amharic. As Menelik built the borders of modern Ethiopia he made the language widely used across the country. Printing, which nearly always used Amharic, began in the time of Tewodros II and government printing activities were soon followed by the first Ethiopian newspaper (1908) and the Berhanana Salam (“light and peace”) printing press began in 1923. Education outside the churches also helped spread Amharic. The first schools at the beginning of the 20th century used French, English and Italian but soon Amharic became the language for primary schools and English the first foreign language in secondary schools and higher education.
This led to more efforts to standardize Amharic, including for scientific and other terms. The formerly-titled Ethiopian Academy for the Development of Language (Amharic) was established in 1942 and eventually standardized 12,500 scientific terms.
Haile Selassie I (1930-1974) declared Amharic the official language in 1955 to demonstrate the unity of Ethiopians as a nation. He disregarded other languages, where this was feasible.
The Derg (1974-1991) started to recognize language rights of other Ethiopians, although Amharic remained the official language and the means of instruction in primary schools, which doubled in number between 1974 and 1984. Amharic was also useful for communicating between ethnic groups, but 15 languages were used for adult literacy campaigns during the 1980s. Good Amharic was still needed for all government jobs and was driven by urbanization, growing transport links, trade and commerce.
Taken from “The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook” edited by Stefan Weninger in 2011 and published by Walter de Greyter, Berlin.

Last 2 places for learning Amharic

Bookings have been very strong for our Amharic lessons in London starting next week 22 October. There are still 2 places, please use the contact form or write to info [at] if you would like to reserve your place or to get more details.
We are looking forward to meeting our prospective students who want to learn Amharic in our central London venue.
The Amharic course will be nine sessions, from 22 October to 17 December, at 6:30pm-8pm and the classes are being held in Bloomsbury, central London, near the British museum.

Ge’ez for cellphones

The first cellphones for messages in Ge’ez script went on sale in 2007, just in time for the Ethiopian millennium celebrations. Previously people had to send each other messages in English or Italian or transcribe Amharic words into Roman script (the script used by most European languages).
The Ge’ez script works for languages such as Amharic and is the oldest African script still in widespread and current use for literature, news, notices, legal and all other uses. It is very widely used in Ethiopia, and also in other countries where there are Ethiopian communities.
Nokia developed the phones, according to the BBC. They had onscreen instructions in Amharic, keypads showing both English and Ge’ez characters and it was even possible to set dates according to Ethiopia’s 13-month calendar, in terms of which the new millennium dawned on 11 September 2007.
The lessons at Learn Amharic in London will also give students insights into Ethiopian culture, calendar, time and manners as well as the latest developments.
Roman script has 26 characters but the various variations of Ge’ez characters, which combine vowels and consonants, have nearly 300. You need one or two keystrokes to create the combination. The system was built around a Unicode – UCS2 standard – font, so the messages should be able to be transmitted on any UCS2 compatible network and displayed on any UCS2 capable phone, normally those which can display Arabic or Hindi and other scripts.
The new millennium in 2007 also signaled the end of a two-year ban on SMS messaging in Ethiopia, with the service switched off since the 2005 political unrest.
By 2011, ABSHA/ECS in the USA produced a program to type and search using the Ge’ez font that works on Android cellphones. The same company had computerized Ethiopic languages with ModEth, a DOS wordprocessor for Ethiopia, released in 1987 so that each character could be achieved with one or two keystrokes.
Many computers in Ethiopia come supplied with typing software for Ge’ez fidels. We will offer Amharic lessons that will help our students who learn Amharic to read and write, although learning Amharic for typing is a step further than our syllabus.
This website KeyManWeb offers a chance for Amharic students to try their Amharic typing.

Classes start 22 October

We have set our Autumn course programme for Amharic classes, after lots of interest from potential students. We are very excited to announce the details. The lessons will last for 90 minutes (1.5 hours) and will be on Wednesdays at 6:30pm in central London. We are running nine Amharic lessons, from 22 October to 17 December.

These language lessons are aimed at beginners and our experienced tutor expects you will make a lot of progress in Amharic language by the end of the course. We offer our own tailor-made course materials.

We can only take a few students, so please contact us to register your interest for the Amharic lessons as soon as possible.

We look forward to meeting you!

Happy New Year – Enkutatash

Happy New Year 2007, or “enkutatash” to all those who are celebrating the #EthiopianNewYear on 11 September.

Ethiopia works to a different calendar to the Gregorian calendar followed in much of Europe, America and other countries. It is called the “Ethiopian calendar” (Amharic: የኢትዮጵያ ዘመን አቆጣጠር?; yä’Ityoṗṗya zämän aḳoṭaṭär) and is based on the older Alexandrian or Coptic calendar. It has 12 months of 30 days plus one month of five days, or six days in a Leap Year.


The Gregorian calendar was introduced to Europe by Pope Gregory III in 1582, and is a refinement of the Julian calendar which was introduced by Julius Caesar and took effect in 45 BC. The Ethiopian authorities preferred to stick with the Coptic Christian version.

The Ethiopian calendar is seven to eight years different from the Gregorian calendar as the different church authorities have different dates for the Annunciation of Jesus. Thus 11 September 2014 in the Gregorian calendar is New Year 2007 for Ethiopians.

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