Addis Ababa - Post Report Question and Answers

How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It would be helpful to know the local language, but you can muddle through most of the time. Technically English is part of the curriculum after grade six, but In practice most can't speak it. A few words of Amharic is helpful in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia is a country of many languages, and not transferrable in other regions of the country. - Aug 2023

You can get by without the language, especially if your driver is with you or you send your housekeeper to do the shopping for you. - Aug 2023

Need to know some numbers to try and negotiate. - Aug 2022

In Addis there are many people who attempt to speak English, many can understand even if they don’t speak. I highly recommend learning the local language. It means a lot to Ethiopians when you speak in Amharic. I have been invited into many homes because I try to speak with my neighbors and the people who run restaurants and stores. Language tutors are probably the best way to go. I pay 200etb per hour ($4 usd) for a language tutor. - Jul 2022

You need a lot of it. - May 2022

English is widely spoken. - Jun 2021

English was fine. - Feb 2021

Locals really appreciate you having a few words. Amharic is a fascinating language but difficult to learn (may be easier for those who speak some Arabic). - Aug 2020

Amharic is a difficult language. Knowing a few phrases is helpful, but the country speaks 80 different dialects. - Mar 2020

None, but it is considered polite to have basic greetings. Tutors can be expensive. I have seen math tutors ask for US$70/hour. Be prepared to negotiate prices, and walk away if the price is too high. - Feb 2020

Learning some basic Amharic can be helpful and opens up doors, people seem more willing to help. Many Ethiopian speak English. There are classes and tutors teaching Amharic. - Feb 2019

You will get a lot of praise if you speak Amharic, but you can get by without, although you will need to use gestures a lot. - Oct 2018

Little, you can find plenty of English speaker. - Aug 2018

You can get by without Amharic, but it is definitely helpful if you speak even a word of it. You can bring smiles on locals. :-). Classes and tutors are available. - Jul 2018

For shopping and getting around, you will be fine with English, but it is always very helpful to know a few phrases in Amharic. - Jan 2018

I speak no Amharic beyond pleasantries and rarely have a problem making myself understood, though taxi drivers may need some supplemental hand gestures. My housekeeper runs a lot of my errands for me, which helps a lot. Classes are available at similar rates to the U.S. - Sep 2017

Lots of Ethiopians do not speak English well or at all although it is taught in school (speaks directly to the level of education but that's another issue). I believe university is in English too although not totally sure. Where you will run into the most trouble is likely in the taxis b/c frequently, they have little to no English and with the lack of addresses? you can see where the challenges are. I think there is a "survival Amharic" class at the embassy. - Aug 2016

Purportedly you can get along in English here. English is legally the language of schooling from high school through university. But it's a measure of how low the general educational level is that English is not really common. Many speak a few words, but rarely do you find someone who really can communicate. From household help to restaurants and grocery stores, it's difficult. Amharic is not easy to learn, with its own alphabet and an unusual grammar. There is a post language program, but not consistently. I see signs for local classes, but unsure of quality. - Aug 2016

None, as long as your household staff speak English passably well. - Feb 2016

Amharic is a very difficult language to learn. It helps to have some but you can get by without it. Just don't expect everyone to speak English and even those who graduated from university (all high school and university is conducted in English) don't necessarily speak or read very well. - May 2014

English is fine. If you don't speak English, basic Amharic is necessary. - Jan 2014

None, really -- most Ethiopians speak English. - Nov 2013

Don't need much. - Jun 2012

Not that much, really, although it is really good for reaching out to know a modest amount of Amharic. - Aug 2010

Very little. Ethiopians greatly appreciate foreigners' attempts to speak Amharic or other local languages, but very few do. - Jun 2010

Knowing some Amharic is helpful. The more you learn, the easier it will be to get by. However, many foreigners who live here don't speak it and they manage. - Mar 2008

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