Learn Tigrinya: An Oral Grammar Lesson on Eritrean Coffee

As a teenager, I had no intention of getting a tattoo and, especially, not one in a language that I couldn’t read.  At 17, I made a special request and asked my father to spell out “Ariam” on a piece of computer printer. There was a new tattoo parlor in the plaza down the road from our neighborhood towers and, without fuss, he complied. Hours later I returned revived.

Allowing an ink artist to stain four Tigrinya letters across my left wrist represented freedom and faith.

I am proud of being Eritrean and am more today, seven years later, for memorizing the phonetic sounds that correlate with the 32-letter set Tigrinya alphabet. However, producing speech remains a pursuit worthy of time, dedication, and sometimes frustration.

I invite you to listen to a recording of these statements in Tigrinya here.

You may follow along and read the pronunciations in English below.

  1. Ane bun y’fetu iye (singular, first person, male and female)
  2. Niskha bun t’fetu dikha? (singular, second person, male)
  3. Niskhatum bun t’fetu dikhum? (plural, third person, male)
  4. Nisu bun y’fetuyu (singular, second person, male)
  5. Nisa bun y’fetuya (singular, second person, female)
  6. Nihna bun y’fetuina (plural, third person, male and female)
  7. Nisatom bun y’fetuyom (plural, third person, male)
  8. Nisaten bun y’fetuyen (plural, third person, female)


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