AFAAN OROMOO, OROMIFFAA, AFAAN OROMO Or What?- By Mohammed Ademo (Journalist and Founder of Opride
Last week I asked what “Oromiffa” means, and whether it’s accurate to refer to the Oromo language as Oromiffa instead of Afaan Oromo.
153 of you responded. Thank you! Some people said they use the two names interchangeably. But the overwhelming majority of respondents said “Oromiffa” is a direct translation from the Amharic term “Oromigna” and that it has no meaning in Afaan Oromo. And it deviates from Afaan Oromo grammar. I particularly liked (and agree with) Rukessa Boru’s response which in part read Oromiffa literally means to be or act ‘like an Oromo.” He provided the following examples: Marqaa bachiffa nyaata (marqaa akka bachoo nyaatanitti nyaata), Abalu gaaliffa deema (akka gaalatti deema), Maalif Sariffa ciifta (akka sareetti ciifta) kanaafuu yoon “Namtichi Oromiffa dubbata” jennes akka Oromotti dubbata jechuudha taha. Rukessa concluded that “referring to the Oromo language as “Oromiffa” is a common grammatical error, developed…over years by people who were influenced by Amharic.” Amharic (Afaan Amhara) is the language of Amhara people.
Why did I ask this question?
It’s important to note that Afaan Oromo has been a written languages only for a little over two decades. It’s banned by successive Ethiopian regimes until 1991, when it was adopted as the official language of Oromia, the Oromo homeland.
Over the past decade, I have seen and heard Oromo elites and others use the two terms (Afaan Oromo and Oromiffa) casually and interchangeably. It is changing slowly with the proliferation of Oromo websites and media outlets. The Qubee generation also knows the distinction. Afaan Oromo is slowly but surely being written and used widely.
This is why I was (a bit) surprised to see Virginia-based ESAT television use Oromiffa (oromiffa.ethsat.com) on its website. First off, I want to convey my appreciation to ESAT’s leadership (cc: Abebe) and its Afaan Oromo staff (cc:Befekadu) for adding the Oromo language to its programming. This is, in my humble opinion, a great milestone and rare acknowledgement — the kinds of baby steps that will (in the long run) help bridge the gulf of distrust that continues to divide Oromo nationalists and those who are often referred to as “Ethiopianists.”
That said, I want to take this opportunity to ask ESAT’s editors to consider changing its program name from Oromiffa to Afaan Oromo. The reason is simple: The Oromo people (*save for Amharic influenced elites) don’t refer to their language as Oromiffa. Neither should you!!
Besides, if you look around, VOA and all Afaan Oromo-based media outlets — including those owned by the government in Ethiopia — and all Oromo language departments at universities in Oromia use Afaan Oromo (not Oromiffa). Even BBC Africa is planning to use Afaan Oromo for its forthcoming Oromo language service.
Furthermore, “ESAT Oromiffa” means “ESAT trying to be like Oromo,” which I am sure was not what you meant. If ESAT’s bosses somehow found the reasons I laid out here inadequate, I encourage them to consult with Afaan Oromo linguists who can better explain the technical and grammatical reasons why Oromiffa is wrong. (I encourage Oromo linguistics to weigh in below). I look forward to hearing ESAT’s response.
Finally, I’d also like to take this opportunity to remind Oromos, particularly those in the diaspora, to retire Oromiffa once and for all and correct those who unknowingly continue to use this erroneous reference to the Oromo language.
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