The Oromo language, also known as Afaan Oromo and Oromiffa, belongs to the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. The Oromo language is considered to be the fourth most widely used African language, preceded by such languages as Hausa, Arabic, and Swahili. The total population of the Oromo language speakers is estimated at about 40 million people who use this language in such countries as Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea, and Djibouti.
Oromo is considered to be the statutory provincial working language in Ethiopia, one of its ethnically based regions known as Oromia. There are about 25.5. million people in the region who use the language as a lingua franca.
The Oromo language has an intriguing history. During the reign of Haile Selassie, the language was banned from use in education, the media, and public life. Furthermore, after the overthrow of Haile Selassie, communist regime came to the country and the language remained banned. Nevertheless, today Oromo is considered to be a widely used language. In 1992 it gained the status of a literary language of Ethiopia. It is used in governmental administration and national commerce, as well as it is used in printed and electronic media. Also, the language is taught in schools and is considered to be the medium of instruction in grades from 1 to 8.
Despite the fact that Oromo people do not divide their language into dialects, it is worth to mention that there are some phonological differences, as well as differences in pronunciation and vocabulary. So the Oromo language used in Ethiopia differs from the one used in Kenya. The difference is explained by the influence of other languages. When it comes to Ethiopia, the Oromo language is somehow enriched by Amharic words, while when it comes to Kenya, the borrowings are mainly from Swahili and English.
When it comes to the influence of other languages to Oromo, it is worth to point out such languages as Amharic, Arabic, Portuguese, French, English, and Nilo-Saharan languages. Nevertheless, is important to know that the vocabulary of the Oromo language is Cushitic in origin.
Before the 1970s, the written Oromo was mainly based in the Ge’ez script. Despite the fact that the Latin script was also used, it became the standard of the written Oromo after the overthrow of the military regime in 1991.