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Oromo Language and Translation

History, language, culture, and how people view life is a topic that doesn’t seem to be exhausted in terms of their relevance and possible applications in our lives.

In Africa, the role played by one’s native language in ensuring that tradition and culture are transferred from one generation to another cannot be understated. Even for foreigners and expatriates who aim to bring their products or companies into the African scene, there must be a proper understanding of the cultures, values, and traditions of the African people.

For every person or company trying to localize their products or services for the Ethiopian and Kenyan audience, it is important to understand the values of the target market, and most importantly, the language of communication and how it can best be translated.

Oromo is the most spoken language in Ethiopia. Therefore, if you are looking to enter this market understand the importance of translating your content to Oromo. If you have no idea how to do that, this article is a great resource for you to start your translation journey.


Oromo Language History

Oromo Language and TranslationAs one of Ethiopia’s official working languages and a minority language in Kenya, understanding the foundations and basics is important for every enterprise that aims to optimize its content for regions with Oromo speakers as the target audience.

Oromo, also known as Afaan Oromoo, is an Afroasiatic language that belongs to the Cushitic branch, it is the second most extensively used language in Ethiopia with the highest percentage of native speakers (including second-language speakers), with approximately 33.8% of the population.)


In 2015,  Ethnologue assigned Oromo five (5) ISO codes (unique language identifiers), and they are:

  1. Boranaa–Arsii–Gujii Oromo (Southern Oromo, including Gabra and Sakuye dialects), ISO code [gax]
  2. Eastern Oromo (Harar), ISO code [hae]
  3. Orma (Munyo, Orma, Waata/Sanye), ISO code [orc]
  4. West–Central Oromo, (Western Oromo and Central Oromo, including Mecha/Wollega, Raya, Wello (Kemise), Tulema/Shewa), ISO code [gaz]
  5. Waata, ISO code [ssn]


The Oromo language was divided into four (4) categories by Roger Blench in 2006:

  1. Western Oromo (Maca)
  2. Shewa (Tuulama, Arsi)
  3. Eastern Oromo (Harar)
  4. Southern Oromo (Ajuran, Borana, Gabra, Munyo, Orma, Sakuye, Waata)


The language is adopted from Latin script, with significant variations that led to it being dubbed Ethiopian Qubee. This technique began in the 19th century when Johann Ludwig Krapf began translating the Gospels of John and Matthew into Oromo, as well as developing the first grammar and lexicon.

The Oromo language was introduced to schools and other teaching institutions after the government of Mengistu Haile Mariam was overthrown in 1991. Oromo was ushered in officially under the new system of ethnic federalism in Ethiopia.

In the current world of business and innovations, for any company that wishes to successfully launch in the Ethiopian market, employing a language service provider that can support Oromo translation and localization will be essential to help optimize the content for the region.


Oromo Language Demographics

Oromo has the most native speakers in Ethiopia, making up about 85% of the population in Ethiopia, mostly in the Oromia Region. Oromo, with more than 36 million first language speakers, is the second most widely spoken Cushitic language in Ethiopia behind Amharic and the third largest language in Africa.

There are 36,600,000native Oromo speakers in Ethiopia, 627,000 in Kenya, and 41,600 in Somalia out of the 37,400,000 total native Oromo speakers worldwide.

In some regions of northern and eastern Kenya, another 500,000 people are first-language speakers of the Oromo dialect.

Smaller groups of emigrants also speak it in other African nations such as South Africa, Libya, Egypt, and Sudan.

Oromo speakers can also be found in Somalia.

The Ethnologue lists 722,000 Borana and Orma speakers in Kenya, two Oromo-related languages spoken in Ethiopia.


Tips to Translate into Oromo

With multicultural marketing, knowing the importance of sentences, they are structured and how to localize a concept to the target audience is key to success.

It is necessary to know that the Oromo language is very complex and multifaceted. To avoid miscommunication and guarantee success, utilizing a professional Oromo Translation company to prepare your content for the Ethiopian market is crucial.


Key Translation Tips

  1. Understand the meaning of a compound word, most time there might be an individual meaning for each word, and a different meaning of the combined word like aduu qaba, which means Sunny
  2. Gender-specific is very useful, but they can be quite misleading when you are translating languages, examples of gender-specific words include: Man: dhira, Boy: gurbaa, Girl: intala, Woman: dubartii  
  3. The style and tone of the writing are critical aspects to consider when translating any language, it is needed even more when considering the Oromo language.
  4. And most important is the Language intent, a mistake may alter a sentence’s meaning from one language to another, even though the translation is technically valid, leading to a difficult translation that doesn’t make sense.



Language and how it is translated are key factors to consider when trying to launch a product or service at a new clime. To successfully gain market share in Ethiopia, there is a high need for both professional  Oromo Translation and Oromo Interpretation.

Securing the services of an Oromo Translation company will provide you access to professional translators who know how to incorporate the elements of the Oromo culture and language and attract the attention of native speakers.