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(updated: april 2018)


getting by in amharic ኣማርኛ

     One of the most exciting things about traveling in different countries, for me, is attempting to learn the language. Next would be using it with the locals - often just to cheer them up with my horrid accent. Below, I've compiled a list of useful phrases that I've noted in my travels in Ethiopia. If anything is incorrect, please let me know. I am simply copying from my notebook the words learned from both guidebooks and Ethiopian friends. That being said, I have only traveled to Addis Ababa, South Omo Valley, Lalibela, and Harar, so it is likely that some phrases are different in other regions of the country.
     Although I tried to transliterate the words into Amharic fidel alphabet next to most of them, it is unnecessary to memorize in order to get by (as is learning Amharic, really - almost everyone speaks English), so all of the below is purely for your own interest, as it was mine!
a few key things to note:
- Amharic phrases vary from region to region
- ishee እሺ is a word that is often used to express both agreement and reassurance; it is also used to say hi or bye
- a sharp intake of breath means agreement and understanding
- nefse is used to get someone's attention (kind of like, "you there!")
- mitmita is a spicy Ethiopian seasoning mix of ground African birdseye chili peppers, cardamom, cloves, and other spices
- similarily, berbere is another typical blend, dominating with cayenne and paprika
- it is not uncommon for Ethiopians to drink ispris, a mixture of coffee and tea
- the word faranji is used to describe foreigners. You're gonna hear it a lot
hello - salam ሰላም
how are you? - salam naw ስላም ነው
how are you? - dehnane(s)h
(resp.) fine - dena ደኅና
thank you (very much) - (betam) amasegenalehu (በጣምአመሰግናለሁ
ebake - please እባከህ
excuse me - yikirta
sorry - aznallehu አዝናለሁ
no worries - chikkir yellem
what is your name? - simi(sh)mano? ስምህ ማነው
(resp.) my name is... - sime ... no
I come from... - Ke ... metahu
only a little - tinish ትንሽ
good/bad - tiru ጥሩ / metfo መጥፎ 
how much? - sint no? ስንት
where (is it)? - yet (no)? ዬት
toilet - shintbet ሽንት ቤት
here - izih እዚህ
and - ena እና
(you're) beautiful - (anchi) konjo ቆንጆ
there is/there isn't - aleh አለ / yellem የለም
student - tamari ተማሪ
Mr./Mrs. - ato አቶ / weyzero ወይዘሮ

I don't eat... - ine ... alfalegen
fish - asa ዓሣ 
meat - siga ሥጋ
egg - enkulal እንቁላል
milk - watat ወተት
butter - kube ቅቤ
banana - muz ሙዝ
coffee - buna ቡና
tea - shy ሻይ
sugar - sikuar ስኳር
coffee with tea - ispris ስፕሪስ
crushed red pepper - berbere በርበሬ

1 - and
2 - hulet
3 - sost
4 - arat
5 - amist
6 - sidist
7 - sabat
8 - simint
9 - zetan
10 -assir
11 - assir and
20 - haya
30 - selasa
40 - arba
50 - hamsa
60 - silsa
70 - saba
80 - samania
90 - zetana
100 - meto
1000 - shi

south omo valley tribal greetings:
mursi - achali
bana - naga
hamer & karo - nagaya

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