The (relative) frequency of qubee letters in Afaan Oromo: The TRUTH!
By Abbaa Ormaa
Background: Afaan Oromo is spoken by more than 50 million Oromo people in the East Africa and the Oromo diaspora around the world. The Oromo people are indigenous people to East Africa and the majority of Oromos reside in the Oromia State in modern day Ethiopia. Oromo is the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia making up approximately 40% of the population of Ethiopia. Oromos also live in neighboring Kenya and Somalia. Despite their number and Oromia being the bread-basket and back-bone of Ethiopian economy, Oromos have been marginalized and oppressed by subsequent Ethiopian regimes since the conquest of Oromia into Abyssinia toward the end of the nineteenths century. The current US-backed minority Tigray-led regime in Ethiopia is not different.
Afaan Oromo, their land, and Gadaa have been the main targets of subsequent Ethiopian regimes. The Oromos were banned from using and developing their language (Afaan Oromo), and culture for over a century. Millions of books written in Afaan Oromo were burned before they see the light of a day for much of their history under Ethiopia regimes. It is only after a long struggle and sacrifices that in 1991, the Oromo Liberation Front the adoption of Afaan Oromo as an official language in Oromia and adoption of the 26 Latin characters together with the addition of seven letters “CH, DH, NY, PH, SH, TS, ZY” to represent sounds that are not present in the English language. As a result Afaan Oromo uses 33 qubee characters to write, namely
Afaan Oromo has come a long way in the last three decades in part because of the adoption of the Latin letters that made it possible for the language to harness the technologies of the information age. Instructions are delivered in Afaan Oromo for Elementary and middle schools throughout Oromia using Qubee letters. Universities are offering graduate degrees in Afaan Oromo.
Despite the progresses made, the Ethiopian government has been working hard to undermine the use of the language and now implemented a new curriculum in the name of addressing the disparity between students reading and grade level. As part of the new curriculum, qubee letters are currently being thought in a completely new order. The frequency of the letters in Afaan Oromo is cited as one of the reason for the reshuffling of the letters. In particular it is suggested that the letter “L” is most frequent. So, we found it necessary to do the analysis and share the facts. Similar work is done and is underway by many people.
Methodology: For our purpose, we wrote a computer code and applied to 10,600 sample words we gathered from across different written documents such as religious passages, newspaper passages, political opinions, Oromo poems and proverbs, songs and book chapters. We identify upper and lower cases as the same. The results of our analysis are summarized below. It is important to observe that depending on the sample size and documents, it is possible to get a minor variation in the ordering based on frequency but not a radical change in the ordering of the qubee letters from the one given here (See  for similar analysis). From this and prior work by others, it is clear that no reasonable document will make “L” as the most frequent letter in Afaan Oromo.
A. Qubee Letters Frequency
B. Qubee Letters Frequency as a first letter
C. The most common double letters in Afaan Oromo
|Double Letters||Count||Relative Frequency|
Afaan Oromoo qubee frequency sequence from the most frequent to the least is:
An English Language analog of these sequence based on root words (see 1) is
The new implements curriculum starts as “L, G, I, M, Aa,…”.
Kids memorize their alphabets and alphabet songs before they enter the school system and at the first grade before they start reading. Therefore, as long as they learn their alphabet and write them, the order in which they learn the letters should have zero effect on reading outcomes in later grades. Unless it is meant to create discontent and confusion, the shake-up of the qubee letters is not going to address the problem of reading! If USAID believes that re-ordering the alphabet improves reading and comprehension, USAID should be recommending teaching inner city kids in the United States in the order “ETAONRISHDLFCMUGYPWBVKJXQZ“.
The Oromo people made a conscious decision to use the Latin script to write Afaan Oromoo not because they are against anyone language or group but based on the convenience of the Latin character and linguistic science. Generations of Oromos have worked on finding a suitable writing system so that their children will be able to speak, write, learn, and work in their language and have paid as a result in blood and treasure. To try to reverse the course of history in the name of “reading” is a continuation of genocide against 50 million Oromo people and should not stand.
In closing, there is no data whatsoever that supports the lame reasons given to re-shuffle qubee. According to the testimony of two of the participant in the preparation of the new curriculum, it was done in secrecy that parallels the Manhattan Project that built the nuclear bomb. Six Cushitic origin languages in Eritrea use Latin to write their language but we don’t hear any such animosities. There are hundreds of languages around the world that use the Latin alphabets with similar reading problems in parts of their society. But none of them think that re-shuffling the alphabet will solve their reading problem in their society.
The USAID whose good name and intention is used to cover hidden agenda of destroying generation of Oromo must speak up and speak against this injustice.
To the Oromo people: This is another plot by the regime to draw you to their killing ground known as Oromia. Do not fall to their trap! Yes, it must be resisted and pushed back but not at the time of their choosing rather at your time of choosing. Meanwhile every Oromo everywhere at home or away from home, must re-dedicate to qubee and Afaan Oromo. Besides the meaningless attempt by the minority Tigray-led regime in Ethiopia to discourage you from using your language and writing in qubee, still it is the 33 qubee characters that you are asked to learn but reshuffled! Show them that this is not going to discourage or stop you from speaking your language and insisting to learn and work in qubee and your beautiful language. The alternative is the cumbersome 240 Gee’ze characters.