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Amharic Basic Course

Amharic Basic Course
$25 off CD version, Levels 1 and 2! | $50 both levels!

Now in digital version with MP3 audio and PDF text!
Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia, and is the native language of some 6 million people. It is a member of the Southern Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family of languages.This course is divided into two volumes. The first part concentrates on speech and grammar; the second volume includes an introduction to the writing system, a Reader, and a Glossary. Part 1 comes with 26 CDs and a book; Part 2 with 6 CDs and a book. And Foreign Service Method Amharic now comes in a digital version with MP3 audio and PDF text, all on a CD-ROM!

CD version, Level 1Was $299, now $274!
CD version, Level 2Was $125, now $99!
CD version, Levels 1 and 2Was $375, now $325!

Book and MP3 Audio Edition, Level 1
Book and MP3 Audio Edition, Level 2
Book and MP3 Audio Edition, Levels 1 and 2
Downloads of the Digital Version:
Level 1 | $25 (was $49)!   
Level 2 | $49  
Levels 1 and 2 | $69  

Amharic Basic | Table of Contents, Volume 1
How the Course Works | Dialect | Symbols Used

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Amharic Basic Course

Amharic is the official language of the Ethiopian Empire and used in government, in business, in all instruction in government schools, and in most newspapers. It is, however, not the only language spoken in Ethiopia. Amharic belongs to the Southern Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic (formerly called Hamito-Semitic) family of languages. The number of native speakers of Amharic together with the speakers of the other Semitic languages spoken in Ethiopia (such as Tigriniya, Tigre, Harari, Gurage and others) is less than one half the total population of the Empire. The greatest part of Ethiopia is inhabited by speakers of Cushitic languages (another branch of the Afro-Asiatic family) such as Galia, Agaw, Somali and many others. But Amharic is now the language of greatest prestige and anyone who has had any education is able to speak it, even if it is not his mother tongue. Still others learn it informally as a second language. The number of speakers worldwide, including those using it as a second language is estimated to be about 21 million.

The method underlying this course is guided imitation, and the aim is automaticity. Acquiring proficiency in the use of language is like acquiring proficiency in any other skill, for example, driving an automobile: you must practice until the mechanics of driving - or speaking - are reflexive. It is the aim of this course, therefore, to bring students to a condition of ‘automacity' in speaking and understanding everyday Amharic.

The ultimate goal of the course is to speak Amharic accurately, fluently and easily. The text provides for the assimilation of all basic forms and patterns of the language by the guided imitation, memorization, and manipulation of a large number of sentences and by practice through confronting various common everyday situations. But actual living use of the language in free conversation is a necessary and essential adjunct - thus students are encouraged from the start to use the language in every way possible, above and beyond what is provided for in the text. Only by constant use of the skill they are learning can learners hope to master the language and retain it.

This course is divided into two volumes. Volume I concentrates on speech and grammar and contains units 1 through 50 in transcription, and comes with 26 CDs and a book; Volume II contains units 51-60 in transcription, Introduction to the Amharic Writing System, The Reader (Units 1-60 in Amharic script), and a Glossary (in transcription), and comes with 6 CDs and a book. The following constituents make up a unit:

Grammar and Vocabulary:
Basic Sentences
Classroom Expressions
Structure Sentences
Useful Words
Grammatical Notes
Questions and Answer

Basic Sentences and Questions and Answers are found in each unit. The Narratives begin with the unit 5. The occurrence of other parts may vary.

How the Course Works

1.With Basic Sentences, Structure Sentences, Useful Words, the recording (or instructor) speaks the Amharic sentences item by item, repeating each item (a build-up or a sentence) twice for each student. The student repeats the item immediately after the recording trying to imitate the pronunciation. After the Basic Sentences have been thoroughly memorized the student can go on to the the dialogues. This drill is to be continued until the student can go through the dialogue like an actor.

2. Substitution, Correlation and Transformation Drills are to be used in accordance with the instructions given at the beginning of each drill.

3. Model Transform Drills should be drilled in the same way as other Transformation Drills.

4. Questions and Answers are to be drilled as specified below, but they should not be considered complete. If an instructor is present, any question which is within the limits of the student's grammar and vocabulary can be asked, but otherwise, the student can follow along with the recording. Some questions may require informational answers, some others simply 'yes' or 'no ' answers. Questions requiring informational answers are to be drilled as follows: The recording (or instructor) asks each student a question. The student repeats the question and gives an answer. The recording then gives the student the answer which is written in the book and the student repeats it as a further drill. Questions requiring 'yes' or 'no' answers should be drilled in the same way, i.e. the student repeats the question after the recording and then gives either an affirmative or a negative answer.

5. With the Narrative, the recording (or instructor) goes through sentences that illustrate new vocabulary items, as with the Basic Sentences. After the students have thus familiarized themselves with the new words the recording goes through the whole Narrative at a natural speed. The student listens for comprehension, books closed, and then summarises in English as much as is understood of the Narrative. This drill is continued until the students are thoroughly familiar with the material. The recording then asks questions listed at the end of each Narrative and the student answers them as completely as possible using words contained in the Narrative.


Students must keep in mind that there is no one correct way of speaking Amharic. Due to the poor system of communications in Ethiopia Amharic has developed various local dialects. There is an especially marked difference in pronunciation, in vocabulary, and even in grammar between the northern Gojjami and the southern Showa dialects. The purpose of this course is to teach the language as it is spoken in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. Addis Ababa Amharic contains elements of a variety of dialects. The student should have this in mind and should always follow the manner of speech of the instructor even if their speech varies somewhat from what is indicated in this book.

Symbols Used in the Course

On the English side, parentheses and quotation marks are used together ( '.... ') when a more literal translation is given in addition to the ordinary English equivalent.

Brackets [ ] are used to indicate words in the English equivalent which do not have an equivalent in the Amharic.

Parentheses ( ) indicate words which are in the Amharic but not in a normal English equivalent. The English side is not necessarily a literal translation but what is ordinarily said in this situation. The use of parentheses and brackets as explained above should make the situation clear in each case.

On the Amharic side, parentheses are used to indicate sounds which are sometimes omitted. Brackets are used to indicate a more formal pronunciation to be used in more deliberate speech or while reading texts written in Amharic characters. Alternate pronunciations of the same word or alternate words are given after a slant line /.

The accent mark used is / '/. This indicates the loudest syllable in a word or phrase. Secondary stresses are not marked. As Amharic has an almost even distribution of stress on each syllable, it is sometimes extremely difficult to detect where the principal stress of a particular word lies. In this course phrase stress will be marked in the Basic Sentences, but words in the buildups will be left unmarked unless the stress is clearly distinctive.

An arrow / ^ / is used to indicate sharply rising pitch.

A period / • / is used to indicate the end of a phrase accompanied by falling pitch. It may or may not correspond to an English period.

A comma / , / indicates that the preceding tone is carried on evenly to the comma and that a new pitch contour begins following the comma. The syllables immediately before / > / are slightly lengthened. There may or may not be a break or pause after / , /. In the Notes slant lines are used to set off Amharic sounds or words within an English text. English letters and words are underlined when used as examples.