Somali is one of the official languages of Somalia and is also spoken in Djibouti, Ethiopia and, according to the Joshua Project, a string of other countries, including Kenya, the UAE, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Sweden, Norway, the UK and the USA. Estimates on the total number of Somali speakers vary, largely because the population is so scattered as a result of the ongoing strife in the region, so the number could be anywhere between 16 and 25 million – or more. What’s not in doubt is Somali’s growing importance internationally.
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Somali belongs of the Cushitic group of dialects and is part of the Afro-Asiatic language group. It is regulated by the Regional Somali Language Academy, which is tasked with preserving the language. There are three primary varieties or dialect groups: Northern (from which we get Standard Somali), Benaadir (which tends to be mutually intelligible with Northern dialects) and Af-Ashraaf (which is not mutually intelligible with either Northern or Benaadir dialects).
Somali is fairly heavily influenced by Arabic. According to Wikipedia, about 20% of the Somali vocabulary is Arabic. English and Italian are modern influencers, which is something the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) is trying to contain in order to maintain the integrity of the language.
Since 1972, Somali has been written using the Latin alphabet. The Somali Latin alphabet was developed by Shire Jama Ahmed. Prior to 1972, Arabic script, particularly Wadaad was used, as were other indigenous scripts, such as Osmanya, Borama and Kaddare.
In 2013, Somali was launched on Google Translate.
Famous Somali speakers include Olympian athlete Abdi Bile, international athlete Mo Farah, international soccer player Ayub Daud, poet and writer Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame ‘Hadrawi’, writer Nuruddin Farah, feminist and writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali and award-winning scientists Abdusalam Abubakar and Wasame Ali.