Aussie educator's quest to document an African language

A native African language has been brought to the pages of children's textbooks for the first time by a Melbourne educator.

More than 40 million people speak the Oromo tongue, but until now it's been largely passed down by word-of-mouth.

19-year-old student Ikram Boru grew up speaking Oromo in her family home, but the indigenous language of Ethiopia was never something she learnt in the written form.

“It was just word of mouth,” she said.

“Really my vocabulary was limited to 'mum, I'm hungry, when's dinner -' that sort of thing. I wish I had these books growing up.”

The books are part of a new global teaching program passing down Oromo to the next generation.

It's the brainchild of Toltu Tufa, a 29-year-old woman born and raised in Melbourne, who holds a fierce desire to preserve her Oromo heritage.

She embarked on her learning project after a global fundraising drive.

“For me the significance is really for the older generation - for them finally seeing their language being promoted in a way that it should be as the fourth most widely spoken language in Africa,” Ms Tufa said.

The Oromo people are the largest indigenous population in the Horn of Africa, but throughout history their native tongue has been under threat of dying out altogether.

For more than a hundred years, the use and teaching of the Oromo language was a considered a crime by the Ethiopian Government.

The ban was lifted in 1991.

Source: SBS