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Eritrea: Language and Identity And Globalization

The article, “Abyssinia (Al Habasha): Origins and Language by: Professor JalaLuddin M.Saleh, Ph.D.” posted by Beyan Negash has generated a very good discussion on the origins of Ge’ez in relationship to Arabic. I have posted several clarification comments under the article. My assessment of the article itself comes from a limited world view but it has helped us dig deep into a lot of related issues, which I appreciate. I hope others had the same assessment.

My article tries explore issues of language and identity in Eritrea. Dr. JalaLuddin M. Saleh’s addresses the origin of a dominant language in Eritrea and he tries to tie its origin or subordination to yet another dominant language and culture, which reached its zenith because of its affiliation with a dominant religious tradition. In both cases, in our area, Ge’ez (Tigrinya) is associated with Christianity and Arabic is associated with Islam. Though both came from the same origin, due their religious affiliation or as tools of different religious expressions, their differences are highlighted instead of their communality or affinity. My goal here is not to reconcile their differences but to highlight their dominance and their unfair advantage of the other minority languages in Eritrea.

The world is becoming smaller due to globalization and technology. Though Tigrinya might seem dominant in its limited environment, compared to the global trend, it is on the losing path. English, a language from a tiny British Isle is coming super dominant all over the world. Arabic in its association with Islam is trying to push back but with the religious radicalization of some of its elements, in some parts of the world it is seen as a liability instead of an asset.

Having stated that, let us go back to the rest of the Eritrean languages alphabetically: Afar, Beja, Blin, Kunama, Nara, Saho, and Tigre (Tigrayit). These seven languages, are trying to survive under a Tigrinya and Arabic dominance. The effort to use them in primary education is commendable but with increasing trends of urbanization, migration, not to mention Arabization and Tigrinyanization, these languages face the danger of extinction. For a full disclosure, I am a Tigrinya speaker, but my early exposure to Saho and Tigre did not stick because they were replaced by Amharic, English, and other languages in between. This was a regression from our parents and grandparents, who grew up multi-lingual though most of them never went to any form of grammar school. Modern education, or Western education, estranged us from our own language and culture. Therefore, globalization was creeping up for the last 70 years, starting after the end of World War II.

Globalization started in earnest with the colonization of the New World (the Americas) 500 hundred-years ago and has accelerated speed in the last 70 years and more so since the 1960’s in Africa. Liberation from colonial powers did not help African countries recapture their language and culture but Westernization became the way forward, a symbol of civilization and human advancement. When we lose our native languages, we compromise our identity. The wisdom, the knowledge, the pride and the sense of belonging is taken away from a community or individual who once had strong sense of identity and belonging.

In my assessment of Dr. JalaLuddin’s article, I tried to paint a bigger picture that the languages in Eritrea, except Kunama and Nara (believed to be part of the Nilotic family of languages), the rest fall under the Afro-Asiatic family of languages. Yet, such distant relationships cannot cloud our perspective; therefore, their uniqueness must be preserved in the words of a wise person, “Losing an ethnic language is like burning a whole library.” Are we aware of such ramifications when we give up our native language in favor of a dominant one? For example, in the case of Tigrinya, Amharic and Arabic in our area, overshadow other ethnic languages. The effort to preserve ethnic minority languages is shrugged by the dominant culture or language. For example, our discussion or reaction to “Abyssinia (Al Habasha): Origins and Language” was concerned more about dominance and prominence. Though very important issues were raised and clarifications made; giving us better perspective or context the implication of such dominance on Eritrean ethnic minority languages was absent.

Dr. JalaLuddin’s article raised a fundamental issue of identity. Who do I say I am in the tapestry of Eritrean national identity vs. other ethnic groups? Am I to accept the explanation of the article or do I have a different sense of identity supported by genealogical lineage adorned by folkloric and mythological stories? Am I to reject one in favor of the other. I had mentioned in my comments that naming oneself or others signifies power over the named. If I have the freedom to name myself, I am exhibiting my independence and power.

In the 19th century, there was a Catholic monk in his manuscript “ተሰኣሎ ለኣቡከ – Tese’alo L’Abuke – Ask Your Father” who rejected the word “ሓበሻ – HABESHA” as a derogatory word because of the implication of mixed race “ድቓል-Diqala–bastard.” He saw it as demeaning; therefore, as the title of his manuscript describes “ተሰኣሎ ለኣቡከ – Tese’alo L’Abuke – Ask Your Father”, he wanted his readers to follow the name his ancestors give to themselves and their sense of identity and belongings. For example, he preferred the word Ethiopian, a word present in the Bible. This was before the creation of Eritrea. However, with passage of time word HABESHA became accepted; in fact, a common name for Eritreans and Ethiopians, signifying neutrality and affirming common identity. Yet, such an evolution of language also led to the word Habesha to mean Christian or only Amharic and Tigrinya speakers. Therefore, instead of becoming a common name for Ethiopians and Eritreans, it ended up in hair splitting process of exclusion. According to Dr. JalaLuddin’s article, however, Al Habesha was a tribe or a clan not mixture of race the way many of us learned understood growing up.

In Eritrea and in the Horn of Africa in general, one cannot be accurate about ethnic purity or identity because people claim multiple identities. We can be more accurate of language affinity than ethnic identity. As in my favorite Ge’ez proverb, “በሰመ ሓዳሪ ይጸዋዕ ማሕደር በስመ ማሕደር ይጸዋዕ ሓደሪ – a dwelling is named by the dweller, a dweller is called after the dwelling.” Many Eritrean genealogists tell us that family lineages cross language, ethnic and religious lines. As our ancestors correctly tell us, “ወለዶ ሓረግ’ዪ – genealogy is like a vine tree (intertwined/interconnected).” If our national and regional identity is interconnected by blood and language, then it behooves us to be concerned about the survival of ethnic minority languages in Eritrea and in our region in general.

Tigrinya is coming with a competitive advantage over other Eritrean languages because of the urban locations as well as because of its scripts. Arabic though limited to Rashaida as native language, religious affiliation with Islam tends to play dominant role at the expense of local languages in Eritrea and other parts of the world where it tends to have great influence. If some Eritreans have negative attitude towards Arabic language, it is fear of cultural domination through Arabization not the Arabic language on itself. This negative attitude towards Arabization is not limited to Eritrean Christians but other Eritrean ethnic groups, who are Muslims too. For example, in the last forty-years, Arabization came with religious puritanism, affecting traditional ethnic practices, cultural norms and customs, including dressing up like Arabs; abandoning millennia old ways of life that do not contradict religious practices.

I would not be happy to see my Tigrinya culture suffocating other Eritrean ethnic group languages and their way of life. That would be another form of cultural domination akin to colonization of culture. During Emperor Haile-Selassie’s era, the practice of Amharazation caused the current government of Ethiopia to react to the other extreme by creating federal states based on language and ethnic affiliation. This is good in a way for cultural and language preservation. Balancing national unity with ethnic/language identity is delicate process requiring policy skills and maturity.

In grand schemes, there is bigger threat to ethnic and national languages. It is the power of globalization that is a sweeping cultural and language domination. How will Eritrean languages fare in such global phenomena? The primacy of Arabic, Amharic or Tigrinya will be irrelevant facing  a much bigger threat of Westernization through globalization, when English becomes lingua-franca for the rest of the world, including China.

About Fessahaye Mebrahtu

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  • Solomon

    ሰላማት ኦህ ካፕትን ማይ ካፕትን፥

    ኣቶ ዓብዱላሂ ዋና ዳይረክተር ኣገልጉሎት ዞባ ዓንሰባ፥ ኣብ ኣኼባ ዳይረክተራት ብ ቅዋንቃ ዓረብ ዝምህራ ኣብያተ ትምህርቲ
    “ነጸብራቕ ቋንቃ ዓረብ ኣብ ዝተፈላለየ ጽላታት ስራሕ ብሉጽን ጉሉሕን ኢዩ” ኢሉ።

    Source EastAfro news 11/24/2016.


  • Hameed Al-Arabi

    Salam Solomon,

    I conceive “Think of separation of church and state.” that your fears are considered. I could also put my previous example as follows: Tigrinia is an Ethiopian language, she came to Eritrea with Ethiopian conquers, though I know our compatriots in the highlands of Eritrea will never accept it. This means, I have to refrain from issues that will bring unrest to my compatriots in the highlands of Eritrea. Equally our compatriots in the highlands of Eritrea should refrain from all issues that will never bring co-existence among our people. I hope my message is now clear.

    • Solomon

      Selamat Hamid,

      One thing that I have been obsessed with, probably since my birth or awareness of concepts, has been symetry. At Adam Clayton Powell Jr. JHS 43, the hyperbola and Euclidean Geometry I was expossed to further exhorts me to search for not only in two dimenssions or a plane but also in n-dimenssions. By no means, as your clear message above, my comment here is not also hyperbole.

      There are numerous points that need tonl be addressed in detail and fully, here in all the threads under Mr. Fessehay Mebrahtu’s article. The axis of symetry of the languages Arabic and Gee’z, both Semetic/Afro Assiatic, is to emphasise your point of Tigrigna having Ethiopian/Gurage/Somali/… Ethiopian origins. So, where is the RAW Beef or Gored Gored and Kitfo one has AND may ask?

      Well, Joseph TG and his Binary Logic antethesis we both will follow. I am utilizing Menfeet-Filter, to give due respect to other points and voices below and above.

      ዮም ጁምዓ ባሪኻ።


      • Hameed Al-Arabi

        Salam Solomon,

        You have the nearest relative and a little bit far relative. You have mother world, continents, countries, states, cities, towns, villages, home, father & mother, children. I hope it is clear now.



  • MS

    Selam Fessahaye and Al-Arabi

    Happy Turkey’s day (the day Turkey was pardoned by the President…ha…ha)
    I think, brother Fessahaye, you have done a superb job in advancing our knowledge and straightening up our discussions. Some of the minor misstatements, I’m sure. were made due to limitations. That’s why I did not want to dwell in them. For instance in your reply to Al-Arabi (by the way Al-Arabi seems to be in his Hwar shaiK course of his coffee plus the Turkey meat, dressing and stuffing might have taxed him heavily, ayteHazelu iKa):
    1. “…[T]here were no native speakers of Arabic in Eritrea except the Rashaida group..”
    I’m using some of the weak links in your reply to advance my own argument, by far you are among the most sensitive and sensible people who have voiced their opinion in regard to thids topic. I have nothing but admiration for your article and your views.
    In order for a language to be adapted/adopted in one way or another, it does not need to be a native. This is just for the sake of discussion, otherwise, most lowlanders consider Arabic as a lingua franca for millennia. They don’t need to be proficient in it; but they communicate through it. That’s how a Bini-Amer from the Sudanese border communicates with an Afari on the remotely Southern Eritrea/Djibouti border. Lowlanders are more proficient in Arabic than they are in Tigrigna. Apart from the cities of the lowland, Tigrigna was brought to them by ghedli. But they have been communicating in Arabic for centuries. We can talk all day about this, but everything boils down to the following: do we believe in the right of communities to determine what language to use, what name to represent them, how to be identified, and so on, or some officials/elites will have to decide their fate from somewhere?
    Sadly, most “justice seekers” wrap up their presence on this forum when real issues of justice are raised. Some are ready to have Tigrigna commit suicide in order to deny Arabic language to their compatriots. The other point that our Christian brothers need to be aware of is this: Muslims have intimate relation with Arabic language. It’s not any language. To them, it has spiritual, psychological, and cultural significances. Most Non Muslim writers fall into avoidable pitfalls not because they mean malice but because of lack of knowledge or awareness . Dear Fessahaye,on the other side of our discussion, in discussions that are conducted in Arabic, Eritreans are really hurting. They are wondering why people could not grasp this simple issue. Our forefathers had decided this issue many decades ago, and many opposition organizations put it in their programs. One of the reasons which triggered our revolution was the annulling of Arabic and Tigrigna. Now, think of that. Part of the reason why so many people gave their lives was to be able to reclaim the right to decide how to live their lives including what language to use. So, it all comes to the question of whether we are ready to honor the rights of communities to decide what language to use. Once we recognize those rights, all the paternalistic attitudes will have no place (again, please, this is not about you). Therefore, this is the mother of all endeavors for justice. Do we believe on what our people decide or we are going to tell them they could not decide for themselves, perhaps, because they are still backward, and therefore, they need someone to shepherd them?
    2. ” I have not sensed any animosity of the usage of Arabic in Eritrea so when a person who has n long it is not suffocating other Eritrean languages and I have said the same about Tigrinya too.”

    Here, too, it does not matter if Saho language is suffocated by Arabic or Tigrigna. It’s all suffocation. So, the notion that Arabic is the only expansionist language is just not correct. Educational policies and planning that the communities accept will save the languages. The key word here is “accept”, the communities must be part of all the educational policies and planning (more efficient if it’s done through their elected representatives). The more communities perceive or experience cynical manipulations and maneuverings of policies and discourse that are clearly crafted to stem their demands, the more they become militant to their demands.
    Finally, I have a word of wisdom for the folks who have gone as far as proposing to killing Tigrigna for English if that would mean curbing the demand of Arabic as an official language. Please don’t do it.
    a/ Tigrigna is a national treasure, it’s beautiful, it’s thriving. Let it grow.
    b/ The instituting of English as a single official language is not going to solve the demand of Arabic language. Muslims will say” Thank you for that, but we still demand to teach our kids Arabic language, because Arabic language is not just any language to us.”
    I’m for a secular political system. I’m strongly for mother’s tongue in elementary, but I also believe I have no right to trample on the right of others. The solution to this misunderstandings is a frank discussion. If my friend from Tigrigna trusts me that I won’t trample upon his interests, he will be more than ready to engage me to understand the gist of the matter. However, if he thinks that I must be hiding a cynical plot, he will be on the watch for any move. He will be quick to prejudge my intents. Muslim communities are as capable of fending off any unwanted expansion or transgression that hurt them or hurt their compatriots, they are diverse and dynamic. Some think as if the Muslim community is homogenous in all of its aspects. Muslims are as patriotic as their Christian compatriots, and there is no way they will collaborate in any issue that hurts their Christian brothers and sisters.

    • Solomon

      Selamat Mo-B-Mo,

      Hamid Al Arabi may now read my PENDING post as provocation.

      Happy Thanksgiving.


    • Fessahaye Mebrahtu

      Dear MS,
      Thanks for your inputs. I believe the majority of Eritrean Tigrinya speakers do not have any objections for Arabic to be a prominent language in Eritrea. During Federation Arabic and Tigrinya were chosen has happy medium. That is how I stated it as uniting language of Eritrean Muslims from various ethnic groups. Characterizing Arabic a language of convenience is meant exactly what you said for Eritrean Muslims to communicate themselves through it. I wish I had the opportunity to learn Arabic as I was post-federation student, when Tigrinya and Arabic were scraped away from education system. Language is tool for communication; in this case Arabic is a medium of communications both spiritually and for the mundane purposes. What I do not accept it in this platform is that not to pitch us as pro or against Arabic or Tigrinya. This is unnecessary and unhealthy tension. Finally, Arabic and Tigrinya as languages of the same root enrich each other not diminish. The world should be grateful of Arabic for reintroducing the Greek philosophies to Europe after the Dark Age. I do not discount that several Ge’ez spiritual books were translated from Arabic, which were translated from Greek and Coptic. Finally, advocating for endangered native languages in Eritrea does not mean I am anti-Arabic. Anyone who does not give the necessary weight for the preservation of the indigenous languages but wants to push Arabic either is not a speaker of one of these languages or is advocating for Arabic domination. Co-existence requires understanding each others fear and concerns and compromise on win-win situation not I win you lose or winner takes it all approach.

  • Fessahaye Mebrahtu

    Dear Awate Readers,

    I am humbled and grateful for your positive comments and reaction
    to my article. Many of you asked for further clarifications or asked follow up
    questions. Do not be disappointed if I have not done it personally since most
    of them have been answered by the readers and commentators. My primary goal has
    been soliciting contributions from our readers; engendering further discussions.
    The ambiance of the discussion is to be appreciated. The sophistication of the readership
    has been obvious; giving me confidence that Diaspora Eritreans can address the
    impeding challenges of cultural dilution or language extinction. Not to serve
    as the Messiahs of their ethnic groups but as resources. The strategies on how to do that could be left
    for another platform. Case in point, Hebrew was resurrected with the creation
    of the state of Israel; though its Semitic pronunciations were Westernized;
    giving the impression that it does not have relationship with Arabic and Ge’ez.
    In our time, preserving a language is much easier; having all writing and recording
    devices available so long there is a dedicated person to do so. Personally, I
    am not that concerned about Tigrinya, as there are several grammatical books,
    dictionaries and other forms of literature. My concern is about the other
    minority ethnic/language groups, who did not have enough access to modern
    education; depending more on oral traditions, as the elders, the living encyclopedias
    of their respective communities are aging and dying off.

    In some readers, I have noticed some tension as if Tigrinya
    or Arabic are the culprit for the diminishing condition of the other ethnic
    languages in Eritrea. Tigrinya had a set-back after Ethiopia nullified the
    federal arrangement and Arabic could not hold fast because it was chosen as a language
    of convenience to unify other minority groups, who by and large happen to be
    Muslims. Therefore, Arabic was not chosen because of its prevalence as a native
    language in Eritrea; it simply was an equal opportunity language. If that was
    the case, Tigrait would have been the natural choice because the number of
    people who spoke it and the expanse of the territory it is used. We have also
    to look at the accidents of history. For example, had the Italians occupied
    Naqfa (Sahel) or Halhal (Bogos) and converted them into colonial capital, the
    center of gravity would have been shifted, most likely Tigrait and to a lesser
    extent Blin because of their limited localities.

    Another factor to pay attention, which I had brought it up
    more than a decade ago is that Eritrean ethnic groups had complementary life
    styles – sedentary agriculturalists, nomads, pastoralists and hunters and
    gatherers. Unlike other ethnic groups in Eritrea, the Tigrinya speakers were
    sedentary farmers; their villages set up in urban format and clusters, most of
    them dating back to centuries. My theory is that Tigrinya speakers would have
    the competitive advantage over other groups simply the way they are organized.

    Regarding naming of
    the various ethnic groups needs an ongoing discussion. Personally, I have been
    conditioned by how was formed early on, I always thought Tigre was right and never
    was exposed to the word Tigrait, the same for Bilen instead of Blin. Our only
    point reference has been what we heard or taught to us by the liberation
    movements both ELF and EPLF. For example, after the fall of Emperor
    Haile-Selassie, the Dergue changed several names of ethnic groups in Ethiopia,
    the word Galla was considered derogatory and changed into Oromo; Wolamo was
    changed to Wolaita, Arusi was changed to Arsi, etc. Ethnic groups should be
    self-advocates, standing on how to be called. Those of us who live in Diaspora
    know the value of correct name. More enlightened one ask you how would you like
    to be called or they would ask you, “help me how to pronounce your name
    correctly.” This the correct and humble approach
    we would like to promote. Let us continue the conversation with healthy

    • Haile Zeru

      Hi Fissehaye,
      Great article and great response. I hope many people will read your writing.

    • Hameed Al-Arabi

      Salam Fessehaye Mebrahtu,

      Arabic is not “simply was an equal opportunity language.” as you call it. Arabic is a daily life in Eritrea centuries back, we pray five times a day in Arabic, write our documents in Arabic. Nowadays Arabic entered our daily life in all its aspects. Today Eritrean Muslims are connected to Arabic language through TV and social medias. Arabic is deeply rooted in Eritrea and miserable attempts from extremists will not change facts on ground.

      Don’t dream to erase Arabic from Eritrea, my friend. I advise you and your likes not to waste your time in this issue. If you don’t believe me visit Eritrea and Eritrean Muslims in diaspora, a visit that will make you calm down immediately.

      • Fessahaye Mebrahtu

        Dear Hameed,
        Do not take me wrong. I am not against Arabic language to be used in Eritrea, I was just stating the historical fact and way it was chosen as a common language with Tigrinya during the federation era. There is no contest that Arabic was used in Eritrea for religious purposes and commerce on the costal areas as the same way Christian Eritreans and Ethiopians use Ge’ez for the same purpose. However, there were no native speakers of Arabic in Eritrea except the Rashaida group, who in essence does not specific boundaries from Eritrea to Egypt. I have not sensed any animosity of the usage of Arabic in Eritrea so long it is not suffocating other Eritrean languages and I have said the same about Tigrinya too.

        • Hameed Al-Arabi

          Dear Fessahaye Mebrahtu,

          I think there is no misunderstanding of what you have written, for an issue discussed for decades. The problem is you want to outwit a result you know in advance in your subconscious will never be accepted by your Muslim compatriots.

          For instance, if I put forward for discussion that Eritrea should be governed by Sharia (Islamic) law and brought thousands of justifications to convince you. I am sure this will just be waste of time from the people of Eritrea in general. Raising such issues will not bring co-existence and stability in Eritrea, because our christian brothers will never accept it. Equally dropping Arabic language will never be accepted by Eritrean Muslims. The question is: why do we waste our time in issues we know in advance will never be accepted by the majority of our people?

          If I got a Muslim brother presenting Islamic law for discussion, I will not behave like my brother Amanuel Hidrat and tell him you have brought a good topic for discussion. Believe me, I will tell him frankly your topic is incapable for discussion. You should not waste your time in issues far from reality on ground, our christian brothers will never accept what you dream for.

  • Tewelde gebremariam

    Hi Fessahaye,

    Abyssinia is a word derivative of Habesha coined, for ease of pronunciation, by European travellers in Africa.

    The Ethiopian Amhara rulers dropped Abyssinia to dissociate themselves from the implied Arabic and Muslim religion heritage.

    They adopted the name Ethiopia— black people in Greek— just because it is mentioned in the Christian Bible and therefore could serve as foundation to their professed Solomonic Dynasty.

    Habesha, after centuries in the grave, is now being resuscitated by at list two unlikely groups, each of which is laying it as a trap to deceive the naive and gullible young Eritrean Christian Highlanders, a trap whose fathers broke into pieces in 1991 , after Thirty Year War that costed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Martyrs.

    The first group is woyane. As it is walking on the foot steps of the defeated Haile Selase, it’s not worth repeating it’s foxy brotherly and sisterly shrouds.

    The second group are some misguided Jeberti, who are enjoying the current crisis of our country and people as a means of carving out a bogus Arab identity.

    Throughout the Ethiopian and Italian colonialism, many of the jeberti who were involved in retail, transportation etc. industry, were the richest in our country and yet looked and still looking at our people as their enemy.

    The irony of irony is that they are collaborating with Tegaru, who had denied them to build Mosque, farmland etc. When Meles said, Tigrai is homogenous people, meaning Christian Tegaru, none of them spoke of their alleged Arabic heritage or their saga and agsonyb under Tegaru discrimination.

  • Mebrahtu Ateweberhan

    Selam Fessehaye,

    Thanks for an enlightening piece and keeping up to your promise on expanding the discussion beyond linguistic affinities and differences of our languages.

    My understanding is that domination of Tigrinya over other Eritrean languages goes way back in history and being the de facto language of the military and government could only reinforce an already ongoing process of hegemony. What is not mentioned in the article and the comments is the interaction of among the other languages, e.g. Tigre v. Nara v Beja, etc. Don’t ask for evidence but one of my great uncles used to say that most of the land that is occupied by Tigrinya, Tigre, Blin and Beja speaking peoples in western Hamassien, Seraye, SenHit and SaHil used to be Barialand (Naraland) while some of the occupation of Kunamaland is well too recent to dispute. As outlined in Jared Diamond’s ‘Guns, germs and steel’ socio-ecological stability (e.g. labour specialization, ability to store food, sharing of resources and evolution of immunity against different diseases) plays a great role on which cultures could dominate resist domination by others. Diamond supports his theory by citing examples from Eurasia and America where farming communities successfully moved east and occupied lands and ousted the original communities with hunter-gatherer mode of life. In the Americas, Diamond postulates that dominance comparable was not witnessed due to the existence of geographical barriers that limited interactions.

    I don’t think there is a silver bullet to the threat from globalization but the solution lies on dynamic policies that would enable communities coup with changes that occur locally, regionally and globally. This principle is now at the forefront of enhancing resilience of vulnerable communities in combating the impact of global change, including climate change. Federal arrangement and other solutions, suggested in some of the comments, might even result in further isolation of communities that are already vulnerable and undermining their capacity to adapt. Eritrea’s thriving and vibrant small towns could provide a clue on successful multi-ethnic co-existence adaptation. It is hard to explain but people could always see where the virtual walls are and when and how they could be crossed. That is what Jonathan Miran found when he explored the social history of 19th century Massawa (Red Sea Citizens: Cosmopolitan society and socio-cultural change in Massawa, 2009).

  • Nitricc

    Greetings All: I am in a no way of language, history or culture. for me, it is too boring. Not to mention, the ambiguity of its destination, no one really knows how the language of today will change or modify tomorrow. so, my intention was just to gloss over the article and read the conclusion. once i started reading i couldn’t stop. i really wanted to discontinue but the style of the writing, the articulation the words and the flow was second to none and i read it from the beginning to the end. So, the moral of the story is, to encourage some of you writers on this forum to follow the suit oft his particular article. I know i can’t write worthy of hoot but if you are a writer, pay close attention to this article and adapt its style, short, sweet and to the point with absolute clarity.
    I know; writing is hard!!
    Thank you, Fessahaye.

    • Hameed Al-Arabi

      Salam Nitricc,

      Of course, you are right; the issue of language, history and culture for you is settled by your uncles. Moreover, they inform you the toothless will not be able to threaten you or take what you already embraced tightly. Repose my friend tranquilly, but you have to remember those you ripped off their rights will never sleep.

      • Nitricc

        Hey Al-Arabi; I have no idea what my uncles did but let me tell you what my uncles trying to tell you and others won’t tell you in your face. I don’t think people are worried with the language of Arabic, what they are worried and terrified is the culture of the Arabs that will come with it. The way of life and the culture of Arabs is very repressive and very unaccommodating coupling that with very rigid and demanding religion of Islam is simply terrifying to them.
        I personally believe that the life of way of Arabs and the religion of islam needs to reform in order to be compatible with the system of democracy. so, Al-Arabi, this what all the people trying to tell you. Now, do you believe Arabazation and the religion of Islam is compatible with democracy and the way of life today? Be honest!

        • Hameed Al-Arabi

          Salam Nitricc,

          Your excuse is worse than your sin. Really, you have a very primitive kind of thinking, and alien to the 21st century. We are speaking about Eritrean Muslims who lived in Eritrea, but didn’t convert you from your religion to Islam. The age of democracy doesn’t exceed three centuries in the West and upto now they are not fully democratized. At any moment they may change to racists or sectarians or regionalists. You have the best example Trump and his supporters.

        • Hameed Al-Arabi

          Salam Nitricc,

          You have clearly stated that you suffer(sick) from Arab-phobia, Islam-phobia and other complexities. The best first step you have to take is to treat yourself from complexities. Then only you will be eligible to discuss national, regional and international issues on social medias. Really, you and your likes hurt their ethnic group before they hurt others.

  • Semere Tesfai

    Selam all

    1. – Assuming there was human evolution (not creation), assuming world population started with few people in one corner of the world, and assuming those few people lived in one localized area – it is fair to assume, the human race, started with one primitive language to communicate with each other. Then why did we end-up with all this languages? Because as the human population grew, they were isolated from each-other due to natural barriers – oceans, seas, forests, mountains, deserts……….

    2. – Today, the world is moving in reverse. The world is shrinking every day. And it is a no brainer, one day (in not so distant future) all languages will die and the whole world population will speak one language to communicate with each other.

    3. – What language would outlast them all? In order a language to survive (a) it must be spoken by a large population of the world community and (b) that population that speak that language must be economically very rich, technologically very advanced, and militarily very powerful. And we have none of those.

    3. – Again, why would languages disappear? Because they are not fit for communication. Imagine: we are talking here about the Tigrigna language being this, having this advantage over other languages, dominating….. Correct me if I’m wrong, but we’re talking about something irrelevant. If I’ve to bet, the way science and technology is moving – in the next hundred years, all nine Eritrean languages will disappear (diluted) from the face of the earth. And hundred years is not a long time.

    4. – Why are some languages not fit for communication? Just for a second, imagine about the language that has every advantage in Eritrea: Tigrigna. Can you teach quantum mechanics in Tigrigna today? You can’t. Forget about words for complex mathematics, science, and technology, even for simple things that are visible to our own eyes, and for things part and parcel of our daily lives – we don’t have words for them. To give an example: there are thousands of flowers and other nature’s beauty with different shades of colors on our backyards; but we don’t have names for those different shades of colors – and I’m sure we are not color blind. It is very obvious for all of us, the difference in numerical count between one Quntal Taff and one Quntal Akat. But Tigrigna numerical count doesn’t go past one thousand (shiH). We all can see the difference in volume between Kubaya May (cup of water) and Ella May (water in a pond), but we don’t have a measurement to quantify the difference.

    5. – For example, today, the English language has close to one million words. And every quarter (every three months) new words are added to the English dictionary – on average about a thousand words per year. Now, the Tigrigna language, just to stay afloat from being diluted (with respect to English), it has to add one thousand words to its vocabulary each year – and some vocabularies for cutting age technology.

    6. – I don’t deny the role of government, but at the end of the day, languages die simply because of the rejection of the community that speaks them. Because with 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 thousand words on their dictionary, they become valueless for communication. Why write a book if nobody is going to buy it? Why sing a song if you don’t have a buyer? Why have a news paper/dictionary/radio station/website/TV station… if you don’t have visitors, listeners, readers, buyers….. The way I see it, more than a government global – demand, market, value….. dictates the existence of a language. And we got none.

    7. – The point: we should accept reality for the benefit of our children – and the sooner the better. Instead of wasting our time on Tigrigna and Arabic languages, we should embrace the English language and move on soon. If the Chinese and the Indians, with all their potential can see the writing on the wall, I don’t see why we shouldn’t.

    Semere Tesfai

    • saay7

      Selamat Semere:

      The fastest growing trend is not English mon-lingualism but multilingualism. If you go by population size, the # of people who speak English the most are ranked as follows: (1) United States; (2) United Kingdom; (3)Nigeria. (Yep, ahead of Canada)*. I don’t think you will argue that Nigerians are more ready for the 21st century than pick some other African country.

      As for embracing English, I am in agreement with you when it comes to medium of instruction. In fact we had this debate before when I and Abi were strong proponents and others didn’t agree. But what is it that you would like to change, specifically. Right now, in Eritrea, English is the medium of instruction beginning in the 6th grade (average age = 13.) Would you prefer that English be the medium of instruction in elementary school as well?

      Outside school, “official language” means what language the State and its institutions interacts with itself and the citizen. Yes, sure, schools and colleges are one such institution. What about the other institutions: Ministry of Agriculture; (farmer)Defense (soldiers); Energy and Mining (miners) Fisheries (fishermen) Finance (banking), Foreign Affairs (professionals); Health (physicians, nurses, patients); Information (reporters and news consumers and entertainers); Justice (judges, lawyers, claimants, defendents); Land, Water and Environment (everyone); Labor and Human Welfare (everyone); Local Government (everyone); National Development (everyone); Public Works…Tourism.
      Trade and Industry; Transport and Communications.

      Now, are you seriously suggesting that the Eritrean people speak to all these arms of the State in English? When? 100 years from now? What language do they use to speak to it now, for a decade, for two decades, for half a century?

      As for all those limitations you gave about the Tigrinya language, that’s precisely why the speakers of the other 8 languages demanded that their children be taught in Arabic.


      *not picking on Canada or for that matter Australia. Just a function of population size.

      • Berhe Y

        Hi Saay,

        *It’s ok Saay. Canada eko enda Alebom eyu ndeqKa:).

        Personally I think the our forefathers have agreed to have Tigrina and Arabic as official language and I think that’s perfectly fine and it serves the purpose of most people.

        On Average then we will have Eritreans speak at least three languages (Tigrina, Arabic, and English) and others, they speak even more (like Tigre) as in MS as an example. And that’s really a blessing.

        An average Dutch person speaks 4 languages (English, French, German and Dutch) and most Easter European people speak at least 3 or 4 (German, Russian, English)…and if we go back to our fathers time, they spoke at least 3 or four (Italian, Tigrina, Amharic) and most (Italian, Arabic, Tigriana, and Amharic) and some even english.

        From economic point of view, it makes sense if we learn (all of Eritreans( Arabic, Amharic and English) as the will be our trading partners (Ethiopia, Sudan / Middle East) and English for the rest of the world.

        This is huge advantage and it doesn’t take much effort really at the education level if we keep the elementary in native language and we take english starting grade 6.

        BTW, there is evidence and study that suggests kids who speak their native language at home, have great advantage than those who speak only one language. In Canada it’s REALY promoted and supported by the government so that kids learn the TWO Official languages PLUS their native language.

        In Toronto there are many schools but I know of these one where my kids attend to every weekend and it’s funded by the ministry of Education.


        I really don’t know why we keep going in circle in this endless debate. If the argument is from Tigrina speakers point of view (as in EPLF) it’s really shiTara and they wanted to keep the people in dark ages and ignorant so they are not challenged.


        • saay7

          Hey Berhe Y:

          ኣንታ ሓቅኻ’ወ: ኣቦይ ትራምፕ እንተ ኣፋዲሶምና ምስ ካናዳ ክንመሳኸን…:)

          I think in the 2010 US Census, almost 20% of US residents speak a language-other-than-English at home. And of course nations like Turkey and China (Confucius Institute) are not having centers all over the world because they like to construct buildings but because they want to influence the world. And, of course, with technological advances, it is not inconceivable that someone never has to learn English: a Siri-like app will translate, in real time, any language to any language.

          But all this misreads people’s attachment to their language, which is their identity. When the Soviet Union fell apart, the first thing the Soviet Republics did was to ditch Russian, which was the official language (imposed.) And this, after 70 years of compulsion.

          And now a brief message in skepticism.

          Where we are now is in some surreal world where Tigrinya and Arabic are the “working languages”, where Arabic makes symbolic appearances (at least in the stationery of government seals and coat-of-arms) and Tigrinya is the defacto State language.

          Claim Why Arabic even got to the “working language” status is a function of how the EPLF formed and as those founding members of EPLF who advocated for Arabic die off, then it will be full speed ahead with Tigrinya only.

          Background : EPLF was an amalgamation of PLF1 and PLF2. PLF1, (Osman Saleh Sabbe, Romadan Mohammed Nur, Ali Seid, Alamin Mohammed Seid, etc, etc) were individuals who learned about the greatness of communism using Arabic. They were products of Arabic-as-medium-of education and had, naturally, great affinity for the language. PLF2 (Isaias Afwerki, Ogbe Abraha, etc, etc) learned about the greatness of communism using Amharic and English. EPLF, then, was a product of both these influences and, later, that of Sagem (Zemehret Yohannes, Totil) who learned about the greatness of communism using English and Arabic literature–by way of ELF.)

          As a consequence of this hybrid culture, you had EPLF leaders who were very comfortable speaking Arabic and who at least considered it no more than a language to conduct propaganda in.

          With nearly all the founders of PLF2 (just like, for that matter the founders of PLF1), dead, arrested or otherwise emasculated, there is no continuity in that culture. At the State level, Arabic is now just an anachronism. Try explaining why we should have it to the YPFDJ and they will look at you like you are a Tigrinya-hating Pan Arabist.

          I got confirmation of this from Eritrea’s Ambassador to Twitter who accused his colleague Abdella Jaber (disappeared since the Forto incident) of being a Pan-Arabist. And then, because I demanded that Abdella Jaber be given due process, he, for good measure, accused me of being a Pan Arabist.

          The historical amnesia is disappointing. When one lists the triggers for the Eritrean revolution, the Ethiopian government’s decision to replace Tigrina and Arabic with Amharic is prominent in Eritrea’s narration. Now, even those who bled for the Revolution are telling us that, oh, well, what we really meant was we wanted half a reversal—but only for the time being until English becomes the official language.

          Will the people be given a chance to have a referendum on this? NO! Why? Because it would be divisive. In the spirit of Orwell whose famous line of 1984 was “war is peace; freedom is slavery; and ignorance is strength”, our Tigrinya Only advocates are saying Unity is compulsion; choice is division.


          • Amanuel Hidrat


            Paternalism = ኣባታውነት

            It is a kind of limitation on freedom and autonomy to persons or people by an authority and make you to fellow their instruction. What you think. In the old days during the ghedli era, we have been using as noted above.


      • Semere Tesfai

        Selam Saay7 and all

        1. – Language is just a tool. A tool to communicate with each other. I don’t deny the influence of language on cultures and traditions but for the most part, I can speak the English language in my daily life to interact with people around me for ever, and still be HARDHEADED TIGRIGNA/HABESHA 🙂

        2. – I’m not for Tigrignanization of Eritrea. I’m against those who want to reverse the Tigrignanization of Eritrea. Because they are not telling us what they are going to replace it with. I might be wrong, but if I have to guess, what they are intending to replace it with – is not UNIFYING IDEA to say the least.

        3. – Dreaming to have TWO EQUAL IN STATUS official national languages for a poor, small, weak Eritrea is a joke. Forget about Eritrea, even for the USA, the burden of having two equal in status official languages is unbearable burden. It is simply impossible to staff every government entity, every school in every level, every legal entity, every business…… with people who have the fluency of both languages to serve the public. Let’s not kid ourselves, even with good intentions, it is financially and legally impossible.

        4. – English is the language of science and technology, English is the language of diplomacy, English is the language of business and trade for the foreseeable future. And this being the reality of the world we’re living in, it would be a grave mistake to deny our children, the opportunity to be competitive in the world in all fields of education. The point: our children should learn English from daycare.

        5. – Tigrigna should be Eritrea’s working language in all branches of government and businesses FOR A WHILE – of course for practical reasons. The English language being the language of education in Eritrea’s school system, all Eritrean mother-tongue languages should be taught (mandated) in their respective communities in all elementary school years. After elementary years, all mother-tongue languages including Tigrigna Amharic and Arabic should be elective languages. There should be government appropriated funds for those who want to study them, those want to research them, those who want develop them – for business and academic reasons.

        6. – People are talking here like we’ve options what language to keep and what not to (when it comes to the English language). But in reality, it is very simple. As the English language inches towards infinity (infinite words), a stagnant language would be inching (approaching) towards zero (irrelevance by dilution). Ask yourself: in the year 1500, how many common words were there, that have the same meaning in every language on this planet. Probably few, if that. Today, thanks to science technology and modern transportation, there are thousands of them – electron, proton, neutron, strategy, diplomacy, democracy, TV, cellphone, satellite, radio, oxygen, hydrogen, nuclear, radar………… to mention a few. Now you can imagine how much the languages you’re trying to protect will be diluted three, four, five….. generations from now.

        7. – When I was ELF Tegadalay, public seminars, public education, public political political agitation…… was a daily thing that you do. And during those public meetings, what you see (observe) is the agony of explaining your idea using your mother tongue. During those public meetings, when my Tigre comrades were communicating to their own Tigre people, half of the words they were using was Arabic words – some even English like strategya (strategy), Doctur (doctor), demoqratiya (democracy)……

        • Thomas

          Hi Semere Tesfay,

          I know you are hagereseb and you would not know the crazy lady “Gu’ai Bar Jimma”. Long story short, I can only relate you to her. She stood all day long outside the bar “Bar Jimma” talking to herself very loudly. Of course, no could make sense of what she was saying all day long:)

          • Haile S.

            Hi Thomas,

            Thank you for reminding us about ጉዐይ ባርጅማ. My reply to your comment is just simply to pay
            tribute to her and all other crazies-despite-themselves, and nothing else.

            When my daughter refuses to listen repeating herself, I get angry and call her ጉዐይ ባርጅማ! Of course it is with affection. ጉዐይ ባርጅማ was the Piaf of Ghegeret, the indefatigable 7/7 performer, whose melodious monologue and quarrels refreshed the rotten atmosphere of those years. In front of the then closed cinema Africa, she was giving a free spectacle en-plein-air devoid of the smoke-filled cinema-halls and cries of Shashi Kapour fans. At that time, you are walking
            from ባር ገጀረት south to ጎዳይፍ, very cautious, increasing your speed and steps, looking right and left, trying to avoid the unavoidable attention of the ኣባት ጦር standing there to monitor the police station, the Agip gas station, the ሴዳዎ transformer center and the memorable ባርኮ forest (many of us left our marks there); then crossing the railroad/‘expo street’ you hear your carotids
            beating your eardrums, every crossing Jeep and Lada is a possible ኣፋኝ ጓድ, you are at your paroxysmal vigilance. Suddenly approaching ባርጅማ you hear that famous Soprano,
            your adrenaline falls, everything is suddenly forgotten, your attention switches 180, you deflate and you feel you reached safety point. What a great feeling! You will not want to continue since your worry restarts as soon as you reach the old Cheshire clinic. Running and hiding away from the ወጣት ዘማች and ኣፋኝ ጓድ, ጉዐይ was one of the few ‘sanctuaries’ we had. For me and I assume for other ‘LF-dodgers’ like me, she was one of the few entertainers we had during those turbulent times. You want to hide while having fun somewhere else? Then the almost permanent casts: Doctor Mladen (Marechal Tito’s revolutionary film), partly peeled-off and shaking movies
            of Lee Van Cliff, Clint Eastwood and Giuliano Gemma’s western spaghetti or the Haati
            Mere Saati were the rule. I bet ‘Where eagles dare’ with Clint Eastwood and
            Richard Burton has never been played as many times in Asmara as anywhere else
            in the globe. With our ጉዐይ there is no lack of variety, today it is the jealous ጎረቤት, tomorrow the womanizer በዓል-ቤት, after tomorrow on the ፈላጺ ዕንጨይቲ and then it is about the ሓሳኽ ኩሩምቲ. Truly, I had ears for her and it seems I am predisposed to encountering these wonderful people wherever I go. Homage to “ቀተሉኒ-ሓረዱኒ” from ኣኽርያ (forgot his name, I was too young), ዘገንፎ ኣይገድፈኒ-ኣይገድፎ from ዕዳጋ ሓሙስ and ጉዐይ from ገጀረት-ባርጅማ. I went to Eritrea few years back, understandably I
            couldn’t find my peers*, but was fortunate enough to meet my other favorite
            peers; one was in front of Cathedrale, another in a city bus; they didn’t deceived me. Now coming to Awate forum, luck strikes again, I fall into Semere tesfay, wedi Bargima! But really, I was a lot more incoherent than him; I deserve the honorable title ጎዓይ ወዲ ባርጅማ!

            *My Admiration and Gratitude to all ተጋደልቲ, those who made it, those who didn’t and those who
            stopped in between, to all without distinction, those I never new and those I
            knew and who overnight never came back to ባርኮ forest to study. The collateral suffering and
            injustice I enumerated above has nothing comparable to the life you endured!!

          • Thomas

            Haile S,

            Thank you very much for sharing what you know about Guay Barjimma. Deserving one, Semere the guay wedi barjimma!! That is so fitting!!

            On the other note in relation to the situation of the derg regime and the derg’s abat tor/soldiers blockage of pedestrians/our ways and the threat on us passing those barricades cannot be forgotten. However, can you see any different development now after the derg left? How do the sawa runaways of today survive the barjimma of yesterdays (abat tor times)?

            Finally, I enjoyed all the cinemas/theater in asmara (Cinema Africa, Odeon, Creche Rosa, Roma, Impero, Dante, Asmara etc). Thank you

          • Haile S.

            Hi Thomas,
            First,my sentence about Semere Tesfay was intended to be a metaphorical twist to say
            that he was not incoherent. That is why I retook upon myself the
            ጎዓይ ወዲ ባርጅማ appellation. Otherwise, I wouldn’t treat him in a bad way out of the blue. In fact, I like Semere’s postings. Forgive me Semere, if you too misunderstood it that way.
            Thomas, on your question regarding the plight of our
            youngsters: Though the derg and post-derg era were different in context and
            format, the feeling of suffering of our young is the same and I certainly felt
            it that way. Every youngster including my sibling’s talk was about going to
            their assignments and services. It was difficult to go hear it every day. The service
            took all their energy and attention away from planning their future.
            The problem is that the years of suffering endured by our tegadeltis has been used as a standard to justify the prolonged service imposed on the post-independence generations.
            Not only military service, but I believe, many other parameters of the regime were
            set based on unpronounced struggle era standards and these instead of leading
            us to self-sufficiency as ‘innocently’ intended, are becoming the principal
            culprits of our problems.

            My visit was 8 years back. Compared to the Asmara I know pre-independence, I didn’t see big developments other than the incomplete housing projects on the periphery of the city. The positive improvement I saw was the greenness around river beds and valley bottoms when going to countryside. Having said that the circumstance that lead me to go back to Eritrea didn’t allow me travel widely; therefore I might not had the complete picture relative to development.

        • Dear S. T.,

          I hope it is right to say that the extinction of almost all the language of the world and the domination of one major language (in this case english) would be the result of successful and worldwide globalization, the main players being technologically advanced western countries. Now, with the rise of ultra-nationalism, fascism, white supremacy, etc, in the western world, and with Trump abrogating on international agreements like NATO, TTP, climate change (although it seems that he is forced to change his stand on this) and others, and with the aim to cut off the usa from the rest of the world, etc, under such circumstances, do you think that within a hundred years or so, the world will be completely globalized? Under a different outcome, do you think that it is possible that the world could be travelling to the unknown? Remember, on top of the above, the eu is facing the possibility of disintegration, with the uk already out of the union.

          For globalization to succeed there must be a worldwide peace, stability and cooperation. Unfortunately, the signs are that fascists, neo-nazis, supremacists, and others, are taking the world in the opposite direction, 70 or so yrs back before wwii and beyond, and many now believe that globalization is not a panacea. Do you still believe that under such possibilities, the english language becoming the only world language in about a hundred years is a fait accompli, even if globalization succeeds or not?

          • Semere Tesfai

            Selam Horizon

            Horizon: when it comes predicting the future, your ዛዓጎል is as good as mine. Having said that, let me say few things that I know and let me speculate the rest:

            1. – The past six to seven decades has been (a) the most peaceful decades in human history (b) the most prosperous, the most healthy….. decades in human history (c) science and technology has advanced like no other time in human history (d) this planet has lived culturally, economically, and militarily almost, almost, almost under Unipolar world order.

            2. – With the rise of China, Russia, India, Brazil it is conceivable that the current Unipolar world order could be challenged. And the outcome could be world run by regional powers – Russia leading and maintaining order in Eastern Europe, China leading and maintaining order in the Far-East, Brazil leading and maintaining order in Latin America, USA leading and maintaining order in half of the world – Western Europe, North America, Australia……. type thing.

            3. – Even if the world is divided in regions under regional powers, still the English language will remain the world-language for science, technology, diplomacy and business. The reason: it is already accepted by Western Europe, North America, Australia, India and Africa (Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa….). And that is a lot of people with a lot of economic power to ignore.

            4. – In four to Eight years, Donald Trump can change very little – if any. America is a very big ship, and because of its sheer size and magnitude, it will take a very, very very long time to steer into completely different direction.

            5. War, Balkanization, and the suffering of small poor and weak countries especially in Africa and the Middle East will continue for a long time. Some might even be swallowed by bigger nations (due to scarcity of resources) but large scale wars between powerful nations is very unlikely – as it would lead to mutual assured destruction.

            Semere Tesfai

          • Solomon

            Selamat Mr. Semere Tesfay,

            Allow me to add two wonderful events in the past SEVEN decades.

            SIX. September 1, 1961.
            SEVEN. May 24, 1993.

            Testament of a great people in mankind’s history for their will for LIBERTY at all cost!

            Seven points for your Seven decades!

          • Dear SemereTesfai,

            You brought many good points.
            One of the things that undermines your theory of unilingual world (if you are indeed saying this) is what you called future multipolar world. “English language will remain the world-language for science, technology, diplomacy and business”, and “english will be the only spoken language in the world in the future” are two different things. English and french are already adapted as the language of science and technology by many countries and universities, even in arab countries. If national and ethnic languages are to be spared, as they are today, then, there is nothing to argue about, because the above is already taking place.
            The rise of the brics countries is no more in the limelight, and the world divided into spheres of independent regional powers might not be a reality. world economic and military power getting out of the hands of the west is an anathema, and I do not think that the west will accept to become a regional power instead of a world power. Among the brics countries, only china still stands out to become a world power of the future. The rest, brazil is in political and economic turmoil, russia is consumed from inside by corruption and the oligocracy, india has lost its luster as a democratic country and a future economic power, and S. Africa is still far away to play an important role.
            The chess game of war between nations, and the bigger fish swallowing the smaller fish, will not happen outside the control of big world powers. Mutual assured destruction (a cold war philosophy meant to avert thermonuclear war), is too obvious to every major power. The problem is that we are in the age when rogue governments are owners of wmd, and there are powers who are ready to destroy and get destroyed without a second thought, if they get their hands on the dirty weapon. These forces are the main reason the world is so uneasy.

        • Hameed Al-Arabi

          Salam Semere Tesfai,

          All excuses and contradictions you show is to impose Tigrinia on more than half of the people of Eritrea by force. What you are telling us frankly is; if you have rights come and take it by force. You are inviting for a civil war in Eritrea. We are begging you and your uncles to refrain from such kind of invitation before is too late.

        • saay7

          Selam Semere:

          1. Your sentences contradict each other: either language is just a tool for communication or it’s more than that.

          2. I am not for using a monocle. I am just against those who want to use a pair of glasses because I don’t know what brand they are getting despite the fact that they have told me over and over and over. I think monocles impaired my hearing.

          3. Pair of glasses are unaffordable. Can you learn to love a monocle?

          4. Besides, contact lenses are better! Why cant we just get contact lenses? The whole world is moving from pair of glasses to contact lenses? It even comes in different hues.

          5. Let’s use the monocle for a WHILE. Notice I am not defining what that means. If the other eye deteriorates, well, that’s just life: stop being a crybaby.

          6. I say we jump straight from monocle to contact lenses. But we have to use the monocle for a WHILE. Maybe a decade, maybe five. What’s that in the life of a nation?

          7. When you have glasses, you are always repairing the frame, nose pads, hinges…so exhausting. Then the lens falls off, and you have to use one from Arabia, or England. Such a hussle.

          There, all fixed for ya


          • Solomon

            Hey Captain,

            THE quintessential Captain in this response. There is a lot to be said. I have in my possession a million years projection and Mr. IsmaEilAA is proof reading it now. And it will take him 100 years to edit it. After that It will take me 250 years to type and submit it to Awate. The projection forcasts the Eritrean languages will be the dominant and official languages for all Peoples and Governments of Ten planets plus earth. As all languages and humanity originated in the Denkali depression per Mr. Semere Tesfay’s comment on Ali Salim’s BejaStan article, it’s only fitting. What would be more fitting is to include a No. 8 to your list of 7 for 7 response to S T.

            *8. No need for monocle, spectacle, contact lenses. No need for sight PERIOD. And no need for hearing. And ABSOLUTELY NO NEED FOR LANGUAGE OR SPEACH. It was not for naught “see no evil, hear no evil, and say no evil.” Humans will devolve to communicate using THE TOOL TELEPATHY TELEPATHY TELEPATHY! And their MaHdere/Dwelling will be the see. And they will be referred to as people of BaHreNegasiTESFAY.

            Short for now…HitSrett gzie.

            * See AI Artificial Intelligence.


          • Ismail AA

            Tina YHabelna Gashe Solomon,
            Blessed this time to have more werq than sem (wax).
            Let me ask you if I can hire your service as my Tebeqa. These days, I got some relief from the projectiles of my dear brother MS. But my another brother, ST, has taken the launching position and keep on sending his projectiles, too. Now, I would like to sue him at the court of AT. That is why I need your service.
            My case is the 1st 2 sentences of # 2 of his lastest projectiles. He is alleging that his projectile is aimed at threat of reversing his Tigrigna. But I didn’t even dream to commit that offense. My demand is not reversing but demanding tthe opening the free market so that others could also offer their commodities. ST has no right to practice protectionist police the old Manroe Doctrine style. The other 50% he accepts want to be able to bring their goods to the market.
            Would my honorable attorney general, Gashe Solomon, represent my case?

    • Dear S.T.,

      Just few months ago you came up with the famous “tigrignazation of eritrea” and now you are talking of “englishzation of eritrea”. Where did the self-reliance, the tigrigna ultra-nationalism go to? Let me guess, it is easier to throw out of the window both languages for the time being, than to make a choice. What will happen in the future, is another story.
      You are telling us that the extinction of all languages, except one, is a fait accompli, and you are saying, why wait, let us work towards that today and not tomorrow and rejoice a homogenous and a monotonous world of the future, forgetful of the fact that at the same time this means the death of culture, tradition and identity..
      Human beings started with one language (let us call it a language, although most probably it was not better than what animals are doing today to communicate) and the universe started from a miniscule point, and thus human beings will end up speaking one language, this time the language of science and technology, as the universe will shrink to its former position, a microscopic small point. It means human beings should forget their literature, poetry (and even burn their books), abandon their culture and tradition, which they cannot keep without their language, and adapt the great anglo-saxon (western world) superior culture and tradition and even identity, if they can.
      You say that economic and military power and advancement in science and technology will decide the one and only language of the world. Human beings should succumb to the powerful (the big brother), the new scientific-technological-cultural colonialism, who will even control and follow if a farmer and his family are speaking e,g, english at home, and if they understand scientific and technological phenomena. If abandoning their language could bring them to the level of technologically advanced countries, to the level of those who tell them that they are inferior in their intelligence, morality and culture, it could have been very nice, but it will not. Many countries have adopted english or french in their universities for the sake of science and technology, without of course erasing their own languages. How much would an eritrean enjoy a poem written in english instead of tigringna about their way of life, dreams, aspirations, even love and hate, etc? Very few, I think.
      Is it necessary to have one million words in one’s dictionary. Can one speak a foreign language with 3k words; is it not possible to study in english with few 10s of thousands of words? Is it necessary to know the million english words? God save us all? How many young british guys know more than 5k words? I believe, few.
      If the chinese learn english, it is not only for the sake of science and technology (after all the vocabulary of science and technology is derived from greek and latin), it is mainly for the sake of trade, and not to abandon their language at a certain stage, a language that is spoken by 1.5b people and growing.

      • Amanuel Hidrat

        Dear Ismail & Horizon,

        In the world of Semere Tesfay every thing what he has been saying and writing are humors. Didn ‘t he told us after debating issue after issue, with forceful energy and to the extend of intemidation, was in fact making humoristic funs. At one point he will tell us the same thing. But tell him language is also a repository for culture. I doubt he is a serious man.


        • Ismail AA

          Dear Aman,
          Thank you for the feedback.
          You are right that a person’s convictions or attitudes on something can hardly change. But in this forum each one of us express opinion (s) on a specific issue or topic. The receivers interact and voice judgement on the basis of the logical or factual merit of what is read or said.
          In regard to our brother Semere’s stand and convictions, I have been reading him for long time. I am aware of where he stands on most of the issues on which opinions are divided.

    • Ismail AA

      Selam Semere T.,

      Considered from pure academic’s and researcher’s point of view, your line of thinking is plausible. But I would argue that peoples of nations live in space (territorially) as time moves on. They do not design their material and spiritual lives by contemplating on what the situation would be so much many centuries or years in the future. Lucky peoples, who live in materially advanced nations, may have resources to spend on studies and projection of what the situation would be in future.
      Love to read your reflection on my brief contention in the context of people sharing scarce resources and the means (language in this case) of earning them.


    • Solomon

      Selamat Semere Tesfay,

      1. No comment on an assumption. I can assume that there was no Yesterday and there will not be a Tomorrow. There only exists Today. I did have a comment in 1 after all.

      2. Wrong. The world is in fact expanding as is the universe. Your thinking here is very narrow. More languages are created within the English language. Knowing all English words and it’s grammar does not necessarily mean you have the capability to communicate with all English speakers. B) Is a reflection of a very unhealthy and destructive envy.

      3. The relevance is equitable access and distribution of resources to all. Sad. …. More later when time permits.

      4. Self retardation. Sad. …..
      More later when time permits.

      5. Sad.

      6. Very sad. The “There will be another culprit to kill identity” defense for Governments that are undeniably killing identity now anyway.Very very sad sad arguments.

      7. Really??? For the benefit of our children? Accept a reality which basis was 1. An assumption.

      Your whole thesis is as old as “there can’t be democracy or equal justice without bread.” Only now you I am hearing “There can’t be democracy or equal justice to ALL Eritreans ever because Eritrea will never be as rich as Great Britain.”

      Pretty clever in telling the Eritrean Yoyth, “our children”, to loose their identity, self-esteem and dignity.
      Sad Sad Sad.


  • Ismail AA

    Selam Fessehaye,

    This is a high value article. I add my vote, too, to the well-earned commendations many commenters have already voiced. It added a new perspective to the extensive discussions the equally important article by ProfessorJalalladin Mohammed
    Saleh had generated. The call to shift focus of the discussion to the internal front is, in my view, a welcome boon to partakers in this forum.

    Coming in a bit late, I noticed that several brothers have posted robust and useful comments each from own perspective. Much of what I could have written has already been taken up by other commenters, and reiterating them would be lousy and redundant. So, I try to limit myself to some general remarks.

    I believe the concern fessehaye had voiced regarding the status of Arabic and Tigrigna vis-à-vis the rest of the languages
    in the country is real even though it may objectively not realistic to see Arabic on the same footing as Tigrigna. This has been working as de facto language of the state with all the material and linguistic (cultural) advantages this bestows on its indigenous at the expense of others.

    Generally, the destinies of languages had continuously been positively or negatively impacted by forces of history. The languages of conquerors and colonizers blossomed; and those of the conquered and ruled were subdued, relegated to oblivion, and eventually died. Many languages of peoples under empires and colonial possessions remained suppressed and stagnant.

    In our case, too, history had not been so generous. Arabic and Tigrigna fared better just by virtue of having written script and their link with Islam and Christianity. The rest remained stagnant and shrinking in number of speakers and eographical coverage. And, transmission to posterities depended on the spoken word, cultural artefacts and folklore.

    At the present, the Eritrea’s disadvantaged languages are facing dual assault. Externally, they are getting impacted by the
    forces of globalization on the same level (or even more) as Arabic and Tigrigna do, as Fessehaye had lucidly explained. On the level of globalization, the Eritrean languages and their lot fit in universal sphere, and will have to sail through the stormy tempest as their counterparts elsewhere around the globe

    Internally, they are being intensively pressured by the force of state policies of the regime in power, which is anchored on the rationale that the survival and sustenance of Tigrigna and everything contingent on it depends on establishment of impregnable buffer that insulate it from outside threats languages especially Arabic. This attitude has been meticulously
    nurtured from the very beginning since the inception of Selfi Netsanet.

    The conviction is that this buffer zone would barricade Tigrigna behind the circumscribed endorsement of the question of eight nationalities defined by linguistic affiliations, and without commitment to other aspects of what the classical definition and its relevant aspects provide for. Here, including the Rashaida tribes in the equation was suitable expediency that meant to reduce claim to Arabic in the Eritrean scenario would be conveniently omissible.

    The operational mechanism of the buffer entailed stage by stage outward expansion to gain more and more space at the expense of the disadvantaged languages on the one hand, and receding of the Arabic language except for its religious function.

    To cut these remarks short, thus, in order that the minimal utility of adopting mother tongue languages as medium of schooling at primary levels, which Fessehaye saw as commendable, to make sense, threshold requirements of an egalitarian a national state should be in place. This will have to be vested in supreme law of the land whose source of power flows from duly expressed will of the people.

    This is ultimate goal of the current struggle to remove the regime that seeks inspiration in segmental value system rather than in pan-Eritrean outlook that caters for the interest of all the components of the nation in equality and fairness. In my
    opinion this is a nutshell the message Fessehaye’s excellent article aims to impart.

  • saay7

    Selamat Fessehaye:

    Thanks for a thoughtful article, free of sharp elbows, interested in promoting understanding, tolerance, love. It is a bittersweet piece: nostalgic and a bit fatalistic.

    You said: I had mentioned in my comments that naming oneself or others signifies power over the named. If I have the freedom to name myself, I am exhibiting my independence and power. How very true. You also said: let us go back to the rest of the Eritrean languages alphabetically: Afar, Beja, Blin, Kunama, Nara, Saho, and Tigre (Tigrayit).

    The question is: are these (plus Tigrinya and Arabic) the entirety of Eritrean languages? And, more importantly, did they have the freedom to name themselves or are we naming them using whatever standards that we, the namers (or, more appropriately, our self-named vanguard organizations), find convenient? Let me illustrate:

    Back in the late 1970s, when I, to quote Billy Joel, “wore a young man’s clothes”, I was exposed to the political programmes of the ELF and the EPLF (Radia Allah Anhom). Here’s what the ELF told me Eritrea’s language groups were:

    (1) Afar, (2) Baria, (3) Baza, (4) Beja, (5) Blin, (6) Elit, (7) Saho, (8) Tigre, (9) Tigriniya

    No, no, not at all, said the EPLF, whose office was, like, less than a mile away. It said that these were Eritrea’s language groups:

    (1) Afar, (b) Blin, (3) Hedareb, (4) Kunama, (5) Nara, (6) Rashaida, (7) Saho, (8) Tigre, (9) Tigrinya.

    They both agree that the magic number is 9 (it’s ALWAYS 9; Allem tshaAte: zeytmelie Aserte): but they have to drop, add, rename groups. Mind you, these are not politicians looking at a people 100 years apart, but in the same year. And God only knows if the groups being named, renamed, dropped, added had any say. And because we were never fortunate enough to have independent scholars, (anthropologists, social scientists), where even the Mzungus took sides, we still don’t know to this day who our people are and what they would like to call themselves.

    Later on, the language groups, depending on the political agenda of whoever is advancing it, morph into ethnic groups. It was no longer Tigrinya-speaker but Tigrinya.

    Nothing remotely new in what I am saying: tons of essays have been written on “the politics of naming.” I guess the only thing I am saying (reminding) is that naming is politicking.

    Not naming is also politicking. The government of Eritrea’s decision not to have official languages is a political decision to ensure that the State has no obligation to its people to ensure that it communicates with them in a specific language. This results in a market-place language which has resulted in Tigrinya being the lingua franca of Eritrea. An undeclared state of emergency results in militarization, and the language of militarization in EPLF/PFDJ, is, was, always will be Tigrinya. (the language of the boot camp, the Gam Man). It is the language of civil service. It is the language of national service. A generation, two and we will become like the Tigray nobility who wrote each other letters in Amharic.

    Eritrea’s 8 other languages are dying, but its euthanasia. Tigrinya is the official language of the coupon economy.

    This slow death to extinction of Eritrea’s languages can be reversed if Tigrinya-speakers recognize how wrong it is and demand the restitution of Eritrea’s 8 other languages. Assuming there are only 8.


    • Solomon

      Selamat Fessehay, Saay7 and Awate forum,

      This article by Mr. Mebrahtu is excellent beyond my time capacity to state all the whys now. I just want to jump in and share my appreciation of it as others are doing with equal enthusiasm.

      “በሰመ ሓዳሪ ይጸዋዕ ማሕደር በስመ ማሕደር ይጸዋዕ ሓደሪ – a dwelling is named by the dweller, a dweller is called after the dwelling.” I love this! And I love how Saay7 pounces on it right away raising pertinent questions that are of course very significant in our collective quest to get traction on THE solution oriented road. Yes, I was one of those Three miles down the road schooled of those 9 (magic number Nine) biHierat Eritrea. Hence, my address to Mr. Fessehay under Saay7’s comment. But I will take a different point of contention than Saay7 as far as I have thus far can extrapolate from what Saay is alluding to or attempting to direct us towards. Once it is further developed from the responses I am anticipating. I will now read the Beans, Hamid’s and all who are initiating equally important branches of the Eritrean Haregs (the intertwined branches of the Roots – picture Gnarls Barkley if you will.) For give me for my vagueness thus far, but I will state my focus and political arguments will be of the Pragmatic or Utilitarian angles while being very mindful of the academic integrity of the topic which is language. Please allow me now to quench my thirst for reading the other comments.

      I will leave you all and especially Mr. IsmaEilAA with a Semuna Wurq quite different than THE Captain Saay7’s “Alem tshiAAte zeytmelIE Aserte.” My Favorite Rap from NYC GitSAtSE
      A verse from Black Sheep:
      “Engine Engine Number Nine
      On The NY Transit Line
      If You See my Train Fall off
      The Track? Pick It Up Pick! It Up! Pick It Up!
      Back on the Scene Crispy And Clean!
      Who is the Black Sheep? I am The Black Sheep!”

      Thank you Fessehay for Picking it up crispy and clean in this article.

      And Captain Saay7! Billy Joel…. Ohhhh Yeah! “I am in a New York State of Mind.”
      Well Dr. House of Oncology! Brooklyn in Da:-)


    • Amanuel Hidrat

      Ahlen Saay,

      Ask to the Tigrigna speaking people, how if we can make English and Arabic as national working languages. Then you will find yourself attacked from all corners of relegating the tigrigna language to the same fate of the other native ethnic languages. Can such question make them think and understand how our monorities are subjected to the danger of extinction? Just pondering.


      • saay7

        Hala Emma:

        I don’t know about that because Tigrinya/Arabic are *ALREADY* working languages of Eritrea. What they are *NOT* is OFFICIAL languages. Why?

        If you take EPLF at its word (and if you read out long interview with chief drafter of the 1997 constitution, Dr Bereket), this is because naming a language “official” elevates it over the other languages, violating the standard of equality.

        What is not addressed is what is the net effect of not having dual official languages, 25 years after Eritreas independence? And if it is one language being the defacto language, is that desirable in a diverse society? And if it’s not, what’s the remedy?

        In other words, in 2016 we are no longer discussing hypotheticals, like we were in 1995-1996. We are discussing (and I apologize for using this horrible phrase) “facts on the ground.”


        • Amanuel Hidrat

          Abu Salah,

          I am not advocating for English and Arabic. I am simply visualizing the situation and the reaction that might come in the event such kind of proposal come forward. Protecting our rich culture of diversities is something different than chosing “working or national languages”. As a matter of fact forumers mix them when we debate one or the other. Does protecting minority’s language makes you extreme? Did you read the criticism thrown at me?


        • MS

          Ahlan SAAY and Emma
          Let me cut it short, if it could be shortened any farther. If you put both Arabic and Tigrigna as official languages, then Arabic language will have a constitutional/legal backing to assert itself in official quarters, provided we have a constitution. Its users will have a constitutional guarantee that the state provides them with facilitations or allows them to demand access to political and administrative opportunities. That would mean any person who qualifies for a position on merits but lacks the knowledge of Tigrigna will still be able to compete for the same position that a Tigrigna speaker considers his/her domain. Let’s be honest. The current policy is aimed at creating a nation akin to Ethiopia where Amharic is the de facto national language; it’s a race against time, however, it’s leaving a lasting injury to the nation’s future. By stating that both languages are administrative, and given the fact that the current cadres who have secured the helm of the government are almost all Tigrigna speakers (regardless of their ethnic background) the chance that Arabic language has equal administrative status is just a gimmick. However, if you put it that way, as an administrative language, the users of Arabic language (half of our intelligentsia) have no legal backing to force their way to the corridors of power and influence. I remember, in the early nineties when we had to translate documents for folks who flocked to Eritrea from the Middle East, well educated people. Almost all of them made an immediate U-Turn as soon as they saw the situation. I think all patriots need to understand this situation. If the officials are doing it purposely, we the citizens need to discuss the ramifications of these policies with sober state of minds. Eritrea could never stand strong when half of its people are brushed aside. The cold attitude that some exhibit towards Arabic language emanates from a simple math calculation. These are folks who think of Eritrea in terms of Muslims and Christians; they think Arabic language unifies Muslims, and since they think Eritrean politics is a domain God has given to them, they consider any thing that unifies the “other” side is a mortal threat.
          Dear Emma, yes, I see what you mean. Many, including people who have wasted their time for Eritrea, unfortunately, get it wrong when it comes to this point.

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Dear Mahmuday,

            As a matter of fact the issue of language in Eritrean politics was resolved by our forefathers during the Federations era to be “Tigrigna and Arabic” for purposes of unity. I still stand by it for the same reason “for unity and peaceful coexistence” of our diversity. The idea I shared with Saay was to provoke his memory, that around 2009, an idea floated for “English” as Eritrean official language by Moges Tekeste, in order to bring justice and equality. Then in October 2009 he amended his position in his article under the title ” The language question revisited” and came with official language “Tigrigna, Tigre, and English” and rejected the idea of Arabic as an official language with tigrigna. Here is the link (http://www.asmarino.com/tig/news/358-bbc-). In another effort G. Ande also wrote an article with a logo “color blindness” but titled as “how many colors does a rainbow have” all to discredit Ahmed Raji well researched papers “The Lost Rainbow”. Here is the link (http://www.asmarino.com/tig/news/358-bbc-)

            Therefore, in an attempt to rebut both of them, I wrote an article in Nov. 9, 2009, titled as ” Color blindness: The bubbles of political Gimmicks” defending the status of both “Tigrigna and Arabic” as official language. Below is the link to read my argument.


            Amanuel Hidrat

          • MS

            Selam Emma
            The issue of language piggybacks many other very important matters of interest, such as identity, and access to power and influence. Some of us discuss the subject from a very narrow angle (some appraise the question from their wish to see, within their life time, a nation formed LITERALLY out of many nationalities. Hence, you have the advancers of the “melting-pot” project where Eritreans are expected to forge a new identity (out of many) within a very short span of time. All the campaigns of “Hade-lbi”, the Sawa camp, Student summer projects…Coordinating Committees of National committees, tightly-censored state media where everything is a copy of the master language (Tigrigna)…the indoctrinating Cadre Schools, the Social science colleges, the books, arts, music…are all well coordinated efforts to create “an Eritrea” out of many Eritreas by slowly steering Eritreans towards having one identifiable national psyche (where the national identity (Eritrean) and the individual ethnic identity of the person become interchangeable. For instance, does the way how the name” Russia” feels to a Russian is the same to what “Eritrea” feels to a Nara speaking citizen of Eritrea? In the first instance, Russian is a national as well as an ethnic identifier, it bears a dual representation, while in the second one, Eritrea is a country while Nara is the person’s immediate identifier. If we are to break the tradition of staying politically correct, within Eritrean context, then Nara is more closer to the person’s heart than Eritrea is. He could only be more proud of Eritrea if Eritrea treats his individual wholeness well. Sadly, we have many misinformed who think of Eritrea as a Tigrigna speaking nation. Months ago, I met a veteran tegadalay whom I had not seen for the past 30 years. And there was this white American friend who also joined us. The American was really attracted to our exchanges; for the most part he was listening to our conversation. Suddenly, the American friend asked, “Excuse me, do you guys speak the same language?” My friend gave the American a quick answer, “Yes, we are a homogenous people, same culture. He continued explaining to the American friend how Eritreans forged a single identity through their long struggle. I’m confident my Eritrean friend did not even hesitate to think about the implication of what he said. The mannerism he displayed and the easy flow of his talk seemed just natural. It was automatic. I never expected that from him, although I know he did not really mean malice. Once, my son complained that whenever we took him to national holidays, adult Eritreans were asking him if he spoke Tigrigna. He asked me if it was true that Eritrea really host nine languages. “Why do everyone here think all Eritreans speak Tigrigna, anyway?” He enquired. After my talk with him, he wrote an essay for his high school, and that essay was featured by his teacher on Medium, an online site for posting writings of different interests.
            There are two spoiler groups that come in when people discuss this subjects. There are those who think anything Arabic is euqal to Aarabization, which, to them, is equal to Islamization. For them, raising the importance of mother-tongue languages is a sort of neutralizing the demand for Arabic and thus defending Eritrea from the evils of Islam. It’s a product of psycho-social insecurities (be careful not to lump up all peaceful Tigrigna speakers, I’m talking about a few elites). On the other hand, you have determined folks who advance the officialdom of Arabic language as a means to Arabize proud ethnic African societies. Luckily, the majority of us discuss it because it is a major factor in perfecting our unity, and discuss it within Eritrean reality.
            I think when SAAY said “facts on the grounds” he meant to say that the current Eritrean administration is hiding behind the smoke screen of the stated policy that both Tigrigna and Arabic are administrative languages, that all Eritrean languages are equal, etc. In reality, however, we don’t see that equality. We don’t see it in the offices, ranks of the army, graduations, in the production of specialized cadres, etc. What we see is the advancement of one language and the culture and identity it represents. Mind you, I consider Tigrigna as my language, I don’t want Tigrigna and the culture it represents to be curtailed; I don’t want to see the speakers of that language criminalized, I just want the other Eritreans also to flourish their potential in a fashion they see it perfect for them.
            Language has many piggybacked currencies, some are expressed, others are subtle.
            1. Language represents identity. Many Eritrean Muslims, including myself, argue for the importance of native languages at elementary level. That’s purely by looking at language from its “scientific” angle, i.e., considering the brain-wiring of growing children to their mother’s tongue, starting from when they were in their mom’s womb. Most educators promote this view when planning curriculums because of how fast and efficient you could teach a child (instrumentalist view). Also, this makes sense when you look at language from a conservationist angle: conserving tradition/identity…etc. Of course, here, we are treating people/communities as lab subjects, or a “robotized” mind that lack sensitivity to socio-political dynamic- psychological, cultural, political, economic…interests. This view focuses only on scientific” researches that are done on brain development, combined with early pedagogical conclusions which tend to deal with children as computerized minds that “think” only in binary numbers. This instrumentalist view is good so long as we think of individuals and societies as free from the push and pull effects they experience when they are computing for limited sources of power and resources.
            2. The above view neglects the politics of language. Mastering the dominant (ruling) language, or not mastering it, ironically, determines if a people will have a chance at preserving their identity, tradition, political interest, etc., because it’s those who are in power and influential circles who formulate policies that have far-reaching consequences; and if you are not proficient in the ruling language, or, call it- administrative one, your chance of representing the identity of your social group is slim. In order for you to think about policies that benefits your people, you have to be in a position to influence policies. We have nine languages that are equal on paper, and two administrative languages that are equal on paper, yet, in reality, we have ended up with only one administrative language. As I have said in my earlier comment, no one should be surprised about this. This is a deliberate project of making a nation out of many nationalities through imposed policies and implied force- labeling folks who advocate for equality of status and equal sharing of power and resources as subnational is an implied force or threat. In the absence of any constitutional restraints, that one language, and its inherent cultural package (tradition, ideologies, attitudes, worldviews…), is defining the fate of our future. I’m absolutely confident that had there been a political system that represents the diversity of our society, we would have fared better today.
            2. How do we then reconcile the purely “scientific”, mother’s tongue view and the socio-political aspect of a language in making a national language policy/plan? Doesn’t the advocacy of Arabic language also kills the native languages? It all depends on the prevalence of an open society. When citizens are free to decide the future of their children (educational, political, economic, environmental…), a vibrant discourse takes place. When there is no threat of the “other” most of the time the moderates find a space to distill from the diverse views. The presence of rule of law rules out the overreaching of some who elements who would like to hijack the discourse to either Arabize it or Tigrignize it. I’m confident sure that our children will still continue learning in their native or a language they choose: the same as the current policy, but now, communities would have guarantees for that policy to be applied. I would prefer teaching Tigrigna and Arabic as second languages provided the communities accept that. Empowering communities is the most effective way of ensuring that native languages are not tramped upon by either languages or by a visiting languages such as English. Because, now, it would be the communities who would decide what language to use. On national level, there is no better choice than restituting Tigrigna and Arabic languages as official languages because the “administrative” status has not worked and there is should be no mistake that affected communities will settle for less than making that happen. And for PFDJ, that’s why I said it’s engaged in a race against time. It wants to change the cultural demography the nation before it exits the scene. Unfortunately, many buy into this notion. That’s one of the reason why some still see the fate of their identity intertwined with PFDJ.

          • Ismail AA

            Selam Aman,
            Thank you for link to Mogos Tekeste’s articles. His arguments cannot be taken serious by serious readers and reseachers for the simple reason that the statistics he departed from to state his contentions are dubious because he got them from CIA and Wikipedia estimates. Such argumentation cannot deliver valid conclusions. One of the outstanding tasks which the regime in Asmara had refused to do is a population count through credible and verifiable census.

          • Ismail AA

            Hayak Allah, MS the Great,

            Without any pause, I agree with your take. You have put in crystal clear way (in just a few paragraphs) what the whole and divisive story is all about: superb and down to earth candid. Some of our elites have been taken by imaginative fear of Arabic having the magic power of becoming carrier of cultural domination. The culture that they want to champion and protect is deep-rooted in the faith (Christianity) through centuries that one cannot imagine would be so easily vulnerable to any force.

            Thus, I would like to back your take by posing a question that keeps bothering me. Why do not we as self-respecting nation honor our precedents like other nations? Why do not we respect the precedent our wise founding fathers had set for us in 1952 by endorsing the two languages as official state languages of the state? We know they had acted as elected representatives of the people empowered by their expressed sovereign will. Why would we want to usurp that sovereign will and at least the people choose?


        • Solomon

          Selamat Saay7,

          I do not believe the facts on the ground are the net effect of lacking co-official languages. Maintaining such a rigid “Principles” does not open new doors. We might as well read the archives. Short for now.


      • Hameed Al-Arabi

        Salam AH

        My brother Amman is very SAD, minorities languages are exposed to extinction. Rabi yihagizka abzi Abi gahi. I suspect he is sad, it is just tears pouring out.

      • Josef the Great

        Hello Amanuel
        Eritrean and Ethiopian strange cultural groups in 2016 they still think in plus/minus(win/lose) and not win-win scenerio. Folks Tanzania has 126 languages and uses Swahali and English for instruction and official conduct. I think we are frustrated nations incapable facing the real world 2016 and participating and one way or another we find issues to help us return to Feudal Ghetto.
        Wake up folks. Start English in elementary school.. and make sure you children participate in the global village… Arabic or Tigrinya binary thinking is just another non-issue after if you country is back to Feudal times what else can you talk about it.
        I would like to talk about where to build a Supercomputer in Asmara University or high school in Keren…

        • Solomon

          Selamat Joseph The Great,

          And why do we have the field of Anthropology in Academia? Does globalization necessarily mean assimilation? Does assimilation guarantee liberty? As a great young person you are only adding to the frustrations.


          • Josef the Great

            I don’t think I am. I am not talking about assimilation it is called participation instead of hiding your mountain ghetto like DIA(by the way Issias/Meles role model was Albania).

            The reality is Eritrea has returned to Feudal era in its own form. I call it the Feudal Ghetto and potential of Eritrean is frustrated. In this frustration, different people react differently. If a person’s talent and potential is frustrated what does a person do?

            In Modern era Eritrea had no real civil society.. I call its modern history four cycles to Feudalism

            Feudal era(pre-euro)- little modernity(italian period)-monarch/dictatorial feudalism(ethiopia)- Steroid Dictatorial Feudalism(post-independence). Decent-NOT BAD-Horrible-Terrible

            So, how do frustrated person or group react?

            1. non-issues become issues- because as long as you are detached from the reality of ground and can’t bring out the change you want to see- non-issues become issues.. so you create your own hyper-reality discussion. You don’t need experts or education or qualification- This is like people who will video games online.

            2. You talk about past debate and re-create narratives and fight over an imagined narrative and given you come from that generation you feel at home. Non-reality is fun and you throw a couple of heavy jargon or lexicon that sound “academic” or scientific. Also write article that don’t say anything- but words so you can beat down you semi-illiterate audience without decent command of english or critical thinking..

            3. You spend your time analyzing issues or what is going on with your neighbor. A neighbor who you fought 30+ years to get away from.. eventual you know more about what is happening in your neighbor’s country than your own country. There is activity in neighboring and voice your opinion and become one of those NBC/CNN so-called pundits who predicated Hilary is going to win. And that wakes you up and you just say “that is not my country anyway- why I am wasting my time and life talking or writing about it”

            4. Final you say.. we need alarm topic why not arabic and tigrinya divide… we are running out hot topics to help us forget our frustration… let’s dig up myths and legend since my audience gets its knowledge thru verbal discussion not engagement in written word.. they will just believe myths and non-sense.. I feel like I doing something or contributing.. but you drink some coffee and realize you are not refugee in Kenya, Sudan, Egypt, Israel, and all over world treated like shit or drowning in waters because you are speaking Arabic or Tigrinya..

            Wake up Eritrean focus on things that make successful in the 2016 world and for Gedhli generation step aside(become advisers and recruit future) in one or another you were involved in creating what Eritrea is now and you don’t have talent, knowledge or skill to turn the country around and help participate in global village… you might have heart.. but Sheeps also have hearts.

  • Beyan

    Selamat Fessahaye and Awatawyan,

    The student of language and culture in me is finding your article so compellingly engaging that I just now reread it once more. Let me give a preface of sorts before I proceed with my question to make sure that we are on the same wavelength. Much as MS alluded to the fluid nature of identity which I wholeheartedly agree with; too, the malleability of culture and art are indisputable in that both tend to evolve as globalization and now the advent of technology tend to speed the process of interspersion. We’ve seen in some corners resentment boiling over when the late Abraham Afewerki began to infuse some of Amharic music in his songs. As sheer coincidence would have it, just yesterday a good friend shared with me fascinating Tigrinya instrumental music that appears to infuse Indian instrument, interestingly, he entitled “mother”. Here is a wrinkle that I need help ironing. Now, for consistency, one would expect your position to stay pure in the name of preserving our traditional music & culture. Although not all Muslim Eritreans think alike, some of the them will probably dispute the claim which you explicate via an example of how “… in the last forty-years, Arabization came with religious puritanism, affecting traditional ethnic practices, cultural norms and customs, including dressing up like Arabs; abandoning millennia old ways of life that do not contradict religious practices.” Now, if one were to guess what your position would be about wearing three-piece-suits for Eritrean men in the last forty to fifty years – badlatat, kravattat, koyo chamatat, and the like – and mini-skirts, tight jeans, and the like for our women, would you object to these in the name of keeping our tradition pure?

    Curiously Yours,

    • Solomon

      Selamat Beyan,

      I believe your somehow snucked in on a Monday YouTube link must be as valuable as the Inivation Opportunity in Eritrea in Brixit Parliament Building. Malleability and evolving identity agreement with MS is akin to the Nine GiAnts taking their seat on the Final Table a Texas Hold’em WSOP. I am simply calling and not raising you call at the moment.

      I don’t suppose I can sneak Engine Number Nine on Broadway along with Number 1. I will await Qedeameyti Sebet.


  • MS

    Selam Fessehaye
    Well done my friend, you stayed within the themes of your article: language, identity and globalization. If you want to go farther addressing the questions and discussions brought by Brhan, Beyan, Emma, and Horizon, that will be a bonus for the reader. The fact that language and identities are multilayered and fluid is not that contentious. However, the driving forces of the changes that take place in language and identity are open for controversy.
    Jared Diamond, in his book, “Guns, Germs and Steel”, discusses how societies and cultures changed (through waves of migrations and exchanges of technologies, marrying languages and identities. In the process, many languages died, many identities morphed to others. Of course, he talks of the societies before the advent of the steam engine. So, the key elements of globalization have been there since the dawn of history. It just became so obvious now with the era of internet and fast transportation. Therefore, it is conceivable that some of the languages of some of the ethnic groups in the Horn will be threatened. Social change is inevitable. The questions that must be asked are: Is the change imposed, I.E.,state sponsored, or a change that culminates in a gradual and peaceful way, something that the subjects anticipate and understand it to be NATURAL and INESCAPABLE, such as the spread of English due to advantage for being accepted as the medium of governance, research and instructions in many parts of the world.
    There were attempts, by some Arab countries, to Arabize higher education (particularly natural sciences, they don’t have a problem with social sciences) in the sixties and seventies. It worked to some extent but later most of them reversed course because of the fast moving advance in technologies, which, of course were not made in the Arab world.

  • Brhan

    Hello Fessahye,

    I read your article and it is a good article. It would have been better though if you addressed how the issue of official languages have been addressed in Eritrea. : during the Italians, British, Federalism with Ethiopia as well as with by the current regime.

    You mentioned Ethiopia but forget to address that the current regime in Ethiopia has addressed it by taking the issue to the people: referendum where the Ethiopians grammatically found that Amharic ( imposed by force to them) was the only language that their elites can communicate between themselves

    When the Eritrean Constitutions draft was seen by a famous Egyptian political science professor, his first question was, why there is nothing about your official languages? He also added that what was drafted in the constitution about this issue was ambiguous.
    I believe our discourse in this topic will be cycling unless the issue is addressed politically.

    I believe referendum or people’s say will do its role in solving the cycling issue.

  • Beyan

    Dear Fessahaye,

    Well thought out piece, and a lot to chew over. I appreciate you taking the time in deciding to write about this. Dr. JMS’s piece generated healthy discussions and that was the precise intention and the spirit in which GEAN decided to have it translated. And now, here you are, taking cultural, religious, and identity angle to further the discussion. I like the layers of local and global approach that you have also added to your article.

    Let me confine myself to two areas of inquiries. Namely, to your assertion that “Tigrinya is coming with a competitive advantage over other Eritrean languages because of the urban locations as well as because of its scripts.” While I agree with the former in that Eritrea’s highland will be the center of political and social gravity because of its geographical disposition for a long time to come. That said, however, it is your assertion of the latter that I found very curious, which I would like to see if you can expound upon. Here is what I mean: Qeddamayti Hitto Tigrinya and Tigrait (Tigre language) share scripts, but Tigrinya has been culturally, social, and politically dominant language. What do you attribute that towards?

    I appreciate you stating that “[you] would not be happy to see .. Tigrinya culture suffocating other Eritrean ethnic group languages and their way of life. That would be another form of cultural domination akin to colonization of culture.” kalayti Hitto: Do you still reckon we are not at that cultural hegemonic junction yet?


  • Amanuel Hidrat

    Selam Fessahaye,

    Thank you for coming with this piece to continue the debate on language, religion, and ethnicity. Though I am a student to the subject, I joined to your concern on the minority languages (saho, Nara, Bilen, kunama, Tigre, Beja, and Afar) regarding the danger of facing extinction. Actually, the concern is not limited to their languages, but also to the ethnic themselves, if you see, the Nara situation as an example.

    Dear Fessahaye, I have a good question to you. And my question is, if you believe ethnic fedralism is good for cultural heritage and cultural languages, why is it extreme for Ethiopia and other highly diversified societal countries? If my reading to your take is correct, while you are hinting ethnic federalism is a good repository system for cultures and languages of diversities, you seem relectant to the application of that kind of federalism. I understand and even you stated it clearly the delicacy of balancing between national unity and ethnic/language identities. But if it is found to be the panacea for building trust and for preservation the cultural and identity languages, can we stop from devicing ethnic federalism because of the fear of its delicacy? I have in mind also the Ethiopians in this forum like Amde, Horizon, Kaddis to engage on this sensitive issue which is pertinent to their country, when I ask this question.

    Amanuel Hidrat

  • Hameed Al-Arabi

    Selam Fessehaye Mebrahtu,

    Globalization concerns the whole world; it is the problem of world peoples. Let us do about Eritrea until we become flooded by globalization. Rashaida is a tribe not an ethnic group. Arabic is in Eritrea before Rashaida and Islam.

    In the name of minorities you gave way to the dominance of Tigrinia by force, and this is unacceptable completely. Tigre, Saho, Afar, Belein, ect. are our languages and concerns us more than the Tigrinia ethnic that competes to have the upper hand in Eritrea. My friend don’t worry about our local languages. I think it is better not to transgress your border of rights to the rights of others, take care!!!