Background and status
The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has more than 80 ethnic groups and hundreds of different languages. Of these languages, the official language, Amharic, is most widely accepted and used. It is spoken by about 17.5 million people as their mother tongue and by many more as a second language. The name Amharic is taken from the Amhara district, in northern Ethiopia, which is believed to be the birthplace of the language. Compared with other African languages (it belongs to the Afro-Asiatic language family which includes Arabic, Hebrew and Assyrian), Amharic has its own very particular alphabet and digit system, and has more than three thousand years of history.
Amharic is important in literary works as well as a working language in Ethiopia, and is the second-most spoken Semitic language in the world, after Arabic.
Growth and usage
Amharic has been the working language of the government, the military, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church throughout medieval and modern times. In the last century the appearance and growth of a literature in Amharic has been witnessed, which has made Amharic one of the most prolific vernacular literatures in Sub-Saharan Africa. Outside Ethiopia, Amharic is the language of about 2.7 million emigrants, and is also spoken in Egypt, the educated populace of Eritrea, Israel, Sweden, Canada and the United States. Many Rastafarians also learn Amharic as a second language, as they consider it to be a sacred language.
Due to the rapid growth of many Ethiopian communities in Europe, the USA (specifically in the Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, and Seattle areas) and Canada, orders for translation into this language have increased greatly.