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.
- Ane bun y’fetu iye (singular, first person, male and female)
- Niskha bun t’fetu dikha? (singular, second person, male)
- Niskhatum bun t’fetu dikhum? (plural, third person, male)
- Nisu bun y’fetuyu (singular, second person, male)
- Nisa bun y’fetuya (singular, second person, female)
- Nihna bun y’fetuina (plural, third person, male and female)
- Nisatom bun y’fetuyom (plural, third person, male)
- Nisaten bun y’fetuyen (plural, third person, female)