Oromo – The 4th most popular language in Africa

Oromo is a language that is mainly spoken in most parts of Ethiopia, apart from the northern regions. Other people in Ethiopia who are not native speakers of the language also know Oromo. 40% of the Ethiopian population speak the language. Oromo is one of the most widely spoken indigenous languages in Africa. It is rated 4th in popularity after Arabic, Kiswahili and Hausa. The Oromo language is a mother tongue to over 30 million people in Ethiopia. It is also spoken in Somalia, Kenya and Egypt. Most people speak it as a first language, while there are also people who speak it as a second language. Oromo is a Cushitic language. It is closely related to the Konso language. These two languages share over half of their vocabularies. It is also closely related to the Somali language. It is distantly related to the Saho and Afar languages.

The Gee’z alphabet or the Latin alphabet were used to write Oromo before the 1970s. The Oromo Liberation Front choose Latin as the official language for writing Oromo. This was later changed by the Mengistu regime, which prohibited the writing of the Oromo language between 1974 and 1991. Only limited used of the Gee’z alphabet was allowed. On 3rd November 1991, the Oromo Liberation Front held a meeting where more than 1,000 Oromo intellectuals were invited to debate on which writing system was best suited for the Oromo language. After a debate that lasted for many hours, it was decided that the Latin script called Qubee be adopted.

Alternate names that have been used for the Oromo language includes Afan Oromo, Galla, Oromoo and Oromiffa. The Oromo language has various dialects. This includes the Western Oromo dialect and Central Oromo dialect. These are further divided into sub dialects. These include Mecha, Tulema, Raya, Wello, Boran and Harar. Oromo is used a a medium of instruction in elementary schools. The Media also uses Oromo language. There are Oromo newspapers, TV stations and radio stations that broadcast in Oromo. The Voice of Kenya radio station has been broadcasting in Borana, an Oromo dialect since the 1980s. The Borana Bible in Kenya was written using the Latin alphabet, even though not using the Ethiopian Qubee spelling rules. The Bible was published in 1995.

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