Addis Ababa, Nov 4 (First Post) — An Indian scholar in Ethiopia has so far published over a dozen books specially designed for foreigners to learn Ethiopia’s languages, particularly Amharic.
His story reads like a journey in reverse to the one made centuries
earlier by the Siddis – Indians of East African descent brought to India
mostly as slaves, who live mostly in Gujarat and have embraced the
local language and culture.
Apart from ‘Amharic for Foreigners’, K. Sekhar from the Indian state
of Andhra Pradesh, who teaches business management at Mizan Tepi
University in southwestern Ethiopia, has also written language primers
in Tigrigna, Oromifa, Nuer, Kafi Noono and Hadiya. The last two are the
first to be written by an expatriate.
“Languages have a trait of similarity at some point and finding out
these traits is the way to understanding them,” Sekhar, a self-thought
linguist and lexicographer, told IANS in an interview.
“The similarities I feel between the two countries (Ethiopia and
India) are also important and made things easier for me”, he said.
The first expressions Sekhar heard in Ethiopia, like “selam new” (are
you at peace), and “dehna” (I am fine), were easy for him to memorize,
he said. Within eight months he was able to communicate in Amharic with
the help of his colleagues.
“It is then I wondered if there were other books. Then I started
looking at how the books were written and I thought I could do something
better, which could be easier to be understood by many foreigners who
face difficulties”, Sekhar said.
He has devised an innovative teaching method whereby each letter is
separated by a box and each syllable has been separated, to help
pronounce easily and sound as close to native speakers.
“It is difficult to read the whole word for foreigners so the
structure is aimed at giving clarity for the people to get the idea”,
Sekhar said, adding “otherwise if I simply take the idea of the
sentences there is no base at all or systematic approach to make it easy
In addition to the Amharic book, he has also written a Hindi primer for non-Hindi speakers in the English and Amharic versions.
“At first I did not believe when I was told that there is such a book
but then when I saw it at a bookstore it was like a dream come true for
I have always wanted to learn Hindi”, said 25-year old Mohammed Bajaro,
a tourist guide who is obsessed with Hindi because of the movies he has
watched since childhood.
According to Ajay Kumar, chairman of the Vedika-Ethiopian Telugu
Association, Sekhar’s books are not just good reference for
conversations on movies or with tourists but also of help to business
visitors to Ethiopia.
“We are grateful for the fact that he has promoted our national
language in a country where the people are so fond of Indian culture and
traditions,” Ajay Kumar told IANS.
“His books would also be preferable aids for Indian investors and the community to communicate with the locals”, he added.