Harari is a Semitic language of eastern Ethiopia spoken primarily in the region of Harar. There are approximately 25,000 native speakers (2007 census), the vast majority of whom are also fluent in Amharic, the national language, and Oromo, another language of the region.
How endangered is Harari? The survival of Harari in the coming generations is difficult to predict. The fact that it is still regularly spoken in many communities, including by children, is a positive sign of its health. However, the fact that the overall numbers are low, that the majority of speakers are also fluent in another more dominant regional language and that the language is not officially supported through educational system are cautionary signs that its use will decline.
Toronto is home to one of the largest Harari expatriate communities, with approximately 7000 speakers. The language is spoken regularly by many community members, particularly first generation immigrants. However, there is a sharp decline in use amongst the second and third generations, many of whom comprehend the language but are not themselves fluent. There are currently no local Harari media sources or language courses in the GTA.
In the following videos, Toronto residents discuss their lives as Harari speakers in the city. To view subtitles in Harari and English, click the (cc) button in the bottom righthand corner of the viewer. Additional Harari videos can be found on our YouTube channel.
A note on orthography: There is currently no commonly used orthography for Harari. Officially, the language is written with the Ge’ez script and in the past it was written with the Arabic script. However, for most speakers today it is primarily an oral language. The orthography used by ELA Toronto in our Harari videos is a non-standard Roman script being developed by Toronto resident Abdullah Sherif.
If you are a Harari speaker who is interested in being recorded or otherwise assisting with our project, please contact us.