The present Department of Amharic (former Department of Ethiopian Languages and Literature) was established in 1962 under the then Faculty of Arts. When the Institute of Language Studies was established in 1978, the Department with its former name became one of the four departments of the Institute.
In its earlier history, students joining the Department used to major in Amharic and minor in subjects such as English, History, Geography, Psychology, Library Science and Professional Education.
The Department of Amharic, at its inception and early stage of development, was small and limited in scope, catering to a very small number of students within the Department (as majors) and a larger number of students mainly from the Faculty of Education (as minors). The Department’s program then (and for several years to follow) was two-pronged: on the one hand was the project of popularizing Amharic as a subject at the college level; on the other hand was the training of specialists in language learning-teaching, with courses in Linguistics forming the bulk of the syllabus. The primary aim in both cases was to produce qualified (Amharic) language teachers for high schools and, to a limited extent, teachers and language researchers at the college level. Those students majoring in the program were taught Ge’ez, Amharic (including introductory courses in poetry in both), Arabic and courses in general linguistics.
Later on, towards the end of the sixties steps were taken to realize the need to include literature courses. Even then, the Department was conceived of, in an Ethiopian context, as the legitimate center for producing qualified personnel in such fields as teaching Amharic, journalism, and translation, which meant less emphasis was given to such ‘classical’ courses as Ge’ez and Arabic (without negating the importance particularly of Ge’ez).
Although the main objectives of the teaching stream still focused on Amharic Teachers for high school and in a limited manner for colleges, the graduates of the Department could not satisfy the needs of secondary schools all over the country. The need for producing qualified Amharic language teachers for colleges also increased. The growing need qualified personnel in the area and the recognition that Amharic was serving as a working language of the government, led to the conception of a graduate program in Teaching Amharic (TeAm). The launching of MA programs in Linguistics, Literature and TEFL in the institute gave further impetus to the launching of TeAm. Since then there was no parallel program dealing with the methodological and pedagogical issues in training Amharic language teachers especially for tertiary level of education.
In 1990 (1983E.C.), the Department began offering graduate courses in the teaching of Amharic language. Students who obtained their first degree from the department and related departments and who had adequate experience in teaching the language at senior secondary schools and colleges joined the program. The first group graduated in 1993 (1985 E.C.) And recently, the Department has launched a PhD program in Applied Linguistics in Teaching Ethiopian Languages since last academic year, which is intended to train and to meet the need of highly qualified Amharic and other Ethiopian languages teachers and researchers in the country.
Currently, the Department has one undergraduate, namely: BA degree in Amharic; Three graduate programs, namely: MA degree in Applied Linguistics in Teaching Amharic (TeAm) and Pan African Master of Arts Degree in African Languages and Applied Linguistics (joint Program with other departments) and PhD degree in Applied Linguistics in Teaching Ethiopian Languages (ALEL). Considering the overall change agenda of the University, the Department has revised its curriculum for the MA program in Teaching Amharic to a modular graduate program and started implementing it.