Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia, a nation with 80 nationalities and distinct languages residing in its provinces. There are many religions and denominations represented in Ethiopia. Addis Ababa is Ethiopia’s capital, a city with a population of nearly 3 million people.
Amharic is a Semitic language most akin to Hebrew and Arabic. It is spoken in North Central Ethiopia by the Amhara who reside in the central highlands. According to a 2007 census, the Amhara comprise about one quarter of the total Ethiopian population, numbering nearly 20 million people.
Amharic is the official language of the central government, and has always been the prominent language in Ethiopia’s political and economic life. Amharic is the second most-spoken Semitic language in the world, after Arabic, whereas Ge’ez is recited by both Ethiopian Christians and the Beta Israel Jewish community of Ethiopia in their respective worship services. The Amharic alphabet is actually derived from Ge’ez.
Outside Ethiopia, Amharic is the language of nearly 3 million emigrants living primarily in Egypt, Israel and Sweden. Amharic has also been influenced by neighboring languages, most notably by Afaan Oromo, a Cushitic language spoken by about 17 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Egypt.
Many members of the Rastafarian religion worldwide learn Amharic as a second language because they consider it sacred.