Tigrinya language is a relatively obscure language in the United States, but in Eritrea it is the most widely spoken language. Recent political instability has lead to an increasing amount of people seeking refuge outside of Eritrea – and thus creating a need for Tigrinya interpreting services providers.
Tigrinya Language | What is Tigrinya?
While Eritrea has no official language, Tigrinya is the most widely spoken – about 50% of the population identifies it as their mother tongue Tigrinya Language. Speakers of Tigrinya are often Eritrean Christians who traditionally inhabited the core plateau. The language is also found in Ethiopia and Sudan, and is spoken by approximately 7 million people worldwide. Derived from an ancient language called Ge’ez, Tigrinya language is part of the Semitic language family which includes other languages such as Amharic, Hebrew, and Arabic. It is a rich language that includes Italian and English cognates as a legacy of the colonial era.
Tigrinya Language | Languages of Eritrea
There are a total of nine languages in Eritrea: Tigrinya (50%) and Arabic are considered the working languages. Other languages include Tigre (40%), Afar (4%), Saho (3%), Bega, Bilen, Nara and Kunama. Although English and Italian are widely understood, there is little to no data found that details the rates of primary school completion or secondary school enrollment. Since English is taught from middle school onward, it is reasonable to conclude that there is a considerable population that only speaks Tigrinya or one of the other ethnic languages listed above.
Tigrinya Language | Why is Tigrinya Important?
Tigrinya is becoming increasingly important as a consequence of Eritrea’s current political situation. Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, and has been governed by President Isaias Afwerki ever since (Afwerki happens to be a Tigrinya speaker). The United Nations recently released a report detailing human rights violations and crimes against humanity in Eritrea. The situation has created a strong impetus for a Eritreans to seek refuge outside of their homeland. Aid workers and governments that are willing to help must be prepared for the likelihood that people seeking support will only be familiar with Tigrinya. In particular, medical and court interpreters with a knowledge of Tigrinya will be extremely important, as those are the areas of high demand.
Based on the report by the United Nations, countries with the capability to take action against human rights violations in Eritrea should do so. Along with the growing number of refugees, many of whom have immigrated illegally to European countries such as Italy, comes the challenge of finding qualified translators and interpreters who speak Tigrinya, along with the numerous other languages commonly spoken by Eritreans. Recently Language Connections provided Tigrinya translation services for various initiatives in the U.S. including the Idaho Office for Refugees and the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants. The two organizations have been doing their part to ensure that immigrants and refugees to the United States have support throughout their transitions. One of the ways they are doing this is by ensuring people receive necessary documentation in their native language, including those that prove difficult to provide professional linguists for, such as Tigrinya.
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