According to Ethnologue, there are 90 individual languages spoken in Ethiopia. Most people in the country speak Afroasiatic languages of the Cushitic or Semitic branches. The former includes Oromiffa, spoken by the Oromo, and Somali, spoken by the Somalis; the latter includes Amharic, spoken by the Amhara, and Tigrinya, spoken by the Tigrayans. Together, these four groups make up about three-quarters of Ethiopia’s population. Other Afroasiatic languages with a significant number of speakers include the Cushitic Sidamo, Afar, Hadiyya and Agaw languages, as well as the Semitic Gurage languages, Harari, Silt’e, and Argobba languages. Arabic, which also belongs to the Afroasiatic family, is likewise spoken in some areas.
Additionally, Omotic languages are spoken by Omotic ethnic minority groups inhabiting the southern regions. Among these idioms are Aari, Bench, Dime, Dizin, Gamo-Gofa-Dawro, Maale, Hamer, and Wolaytta.
Languages from the Nilo-Saharan family are also spoken by ethnic minorities concentrated in the southwestern parts of the country. These languages include Nuer, Anuak, Nyangatom, Majang, Suri, Me’en, and Mursi.
English is the most widely spoken foreign language and is the medium of instruction in secondary schools. Amharic was the language of primary school instruction but has been replaced in many areas by regional languages such as Oromiffa, Somali or Tigrinya. While all languages enjoy equal state recognition in the 1995 Constitution of Ethiopia, Amharic is recognized as the official working language of the Federal Government. The various regions of Ethiopia and chartered cities are free to determine their own working languages. Amharic is recognised as the official working language of Amhara Region, Benishangul-Gumuz, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region, Gambela Region, Addis Abeba and Dire Dawa, while Afar, Harari, Oromiffa, Somali and Tigrinya are recognized as official working languages in their respective regions.
In terms of writing systems, Ethiopia’s principal orthography is the Ge’ez script. Employed as an abugida for several of the country’s languages, it first came into usage in the 6th and 5th centuries BC as an abjad to transcribe the Semitic Ge’ez language. Ge’ez now serves as the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church. During the 1980s, the Ethiopic character set was computerized. It is today part of the Unicode standard as Ethiopic, Ethiopic Extended, Ethiopic Supplement and Ethiopic Extended-A.
Other writing systems have also been used over the years by different Ethiopian communities. The latter include Bakri Sapalo’s script for Oromiffa.