Updated: Apr 20, 2021
I was one people who observe children in an Ethiopian family gathering and wondered these kids cannot speak Amharic and think how parents do this to their kids?
If you have observed the kid’s eyes wandering over the dinner table to catch a single word, they know as if help them understand the whole conversation; It becomes apparent to see their struggle to understand the language and the culture that they were born into, but had no chance to be a part of it.
If your seat is next to your cousin who does not speak Amharic, your evening family entertainment will turn into a big translation project. Translating Amharic to English requires skills that go well beyond the ability to speak both languages, the context around a translation is crucial if the meaning is to be fully conveyed in English. It may require translating the literal meaning of the words, cultural understanding, historical background, and/or context of the conversation. A very daunting task.
On a family gathering like thanksgiving dinner, when a conversation changes to discussion, you see the number of kids on the dinner table get smaller until the last politest kid leaves the table. Eventually, non-Amharic speaking, generational kids gather on one corner unintentionally but to converse in English. This can be an example of witnessing the Amharic language and culture dying in real-time.
I used to say I will never do this to my kids. It was the promise I have not kept. In fact, I ended up on the receiving end, because it took my family, including my sister, issue with me. So, to speak, I am eating a slice of my humble pie. Everyone has a story because and how it was impossible to teach their children the Amharic language.
Mine was not that complicated, but it arises from a concern: when we have our first child, she showed some delay in her language development; we got scared especially, my wife and my daughter's grandparents. To my credit, I did not associate her delay with any inherent difficulty, but a normal personal growth because she was super smart and her performance in any other activities was superb. That sends panic to disrupt our parenting promise. We abandoned our plan to teach her Amharic first, because doing so might complicate her English-speaking ability (with the benefit of hindsight, doesn’t).
While we always felt strongly and conscious about teaching our child Amharic, our priority changes in different direction. We deliberately communicate with her in English. When she turned on her communication skills, we were so happy to continue to speak with her in English. Her brother’s arrival two and half years later changed nothing. It was a matter of convenience to speak with both in English. It makes things easier; the kids are happy; we pass our message with a little effort. After all, the resources and materials available to teach our children are readily available in the English language.
When I and my wife decided to communicate with our kids at home in Amharic, I had contacted my brother in Ethiopia to send me Amharic Children books, and he sent me in a large quantity. My first impression was all the books are full-page text, hard to read, and are not appealing to me, not only to my kids. The design and the print quality hardly capture a child’s imagination. I figured from all the resources my children have, these were very unattractive, I sometimes see they pick up the books from the shelf and could not hold them for a minute.
As time passed by my kids, clothes and shoes shrink as if they were made for little toys, and they become unusable within months. While I am sorting their clothes for a donation, I realized that time is running faster than I imagined it to be. I recognize my disservice to my kids teaching everything but not Amharic. My cultural understanding, generational responsibility, was compromised. I felt abandoning my inheritance, language and culture to pass it to my kids. The feeling sends a shock wave to wake me up and urging me to do something about it.
It was then BK Amharic was born out of necessity from a trained Molecular Biologist and HIV researcher and citified cybersecurity professional. I credited my training in teaching language with the tremendous number of children’s books I have collected and read with my kids, the online course I have learned and thought to my kids.
Relax, countless professionals will support BK Amharic and consummate academics and content creators, graphic designers, and artists to bring you and your kids only the best.
Why Amharic language?
Amharic language plays an essential role in establishing our children's identity. History and culture are inherent in language. Learning Amharic language signifies learning the same history and culture of our Ethiopian parents, relatives, and even the generations before and after.
The self-awareness that we belong to Ethiopia gives confidence and stability. Many second-generation Ethiopians living abroad do not realize the importance of Amharic language until they experience internal conflict after they graduate and enter the workforce.
The moment I first hugged my daughter, I realized to pass whatever the best in me to her. As an Ethiopian-American, I have understood that Amharic language is one of the most important parts of my culture. It is a part of me I was born into; it is a means to me to communicate with my elaborated family and friends to build kinship, relationships, and create a sense of community. If I cannot deliver my parents' language and culture to my kids, my wish in life is unfulfilled.
I hope you have passed the Amharic language to your kids or think it important that you kid need to know your cultural heritage and the language. Raising a child to be bilingual can be extremely challenging when there are few Amharic language resources available to learning to speak and write.
If your experience is remotely like me, BK Amharic will be a partner to your quest by providing you the platform and resources to make it your kids' Amharic learning experience joyful.
Raising kids to be bilingual may help them acknowledge the importance of their culture and heritage, as well as develop a strong personal identity. Understanding and valuing cultural diversity are the keys to combating racism. We must explore the uniqueness of our culture and identity while developing understandings of the cultural diversity that exists in the world. Denying cultural expression means limiting the expression of unique perspectives on life and the transmission of knowledge from generation to generation.
Ultimately, your kid's fluency in the Amharic language will be influenced by many factors, including personal motivation and parental support. First, decide the level you would like your child to reach in the Amharic language and then search for the resources from BK Amharic, such as books, interactive learning, posters, and multimedia materials, for formal education, or temporary immersion.
The fact is that most immigrant families lose their native language at the third generation, but this need not be your case. Come and grow with us, please create a partnership with us to this endeavor. Let us come together and grow to bring the Amharic language experience for our kids and interested adults everywhere with no boundary, creed, or nationality.
Please communicate with us to improve the Amharic learning experience for our kids, so we cannot become strangers to them when we speak Amharic. We have started this journey with confidence in your desire to pass your language and culture to your kids and our ability to deliver with our promise, and we believe we can make a difference together with your participation and support. Please show us your commitment by signing up for limited-time Free Membership at BKAmharic.com.