Addis Ababa, Nov 4: 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 to understand”.
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.
(Hadra Ahmed can be reached at email@example.com)