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“Using the Language Right, is Every Writers Responsibility”

Meet Eng. Tekie Tesfay, an Electrical Engineer and renowned writer who has been contributing momentously to Eritrean literature. Dedicating more than 20 years of his life to the production of two immense dictionaries, Mr. Tekie has also published numerous translations of classic books over the years. Mr. Tekie works hard to educate people about the importance of preserving the Tigrigna language and its proper use.

  • Mr. Tekie, thank you for having us. Please share a little bit about youself?

For starters, I am an electrical engineer. An interest in literature is something I picked up along my way. After I graduated, I started working at the Ministry of Mining of Ethiopia as a geophysicist. Shortly, I was sent for my post-graduate studies in New Zealand where I majored in Geothermal Engineering. My post graduate diploma allowed me to work at the geothermal project. Then again I was assigned to work as the director of Appropriate Technology at the University of Asmara. Working at the department got me thinking about what appropriate technology means for one country and what should be done to upgrade the skills. The only way we can achieve the greatest goals in any kind of field is when and only when we have adequate knowledge of our own language. That is why I started working on producing the Tigrigna- Tigrigna dictionary at the beginning.

  • Were there any encounters that you have faced in preparing the dictionaries?

Sure; the Tigrigna-Tigrigna dictionary took 12 years to publish. I traveled and sat down with elders to collect words and do research. Also, since we were under the Dergue regime, there were many encounters that I was facing, but none out of the ordinary. By the time we got our freedom, the dictionary had around 10,000 words. Shortly after independence, I was able to finalize the dictionary. I was also thinking about working on another big dictionary, English- Tigrigna. That is another book that took another 12 years to see the light. However, the English-Tigrigna dictionary was a bit challenging as I had to figure out the right terminologies that would exactly translate it to Tigrigna. Every language has its own styles and characteristics; it is sometimes hard to find the exact meaning for every phrase and figure of speech. That is something that I worked hard on and managed to get the closest meaning for every phrase and term. I spent tremendous amount of time and energy researching and studying words. I mostly referred to the Oxford and Merian Webster dictionaries.

  • You once again decided to work on another Tigrigna Grammar book, Mr. Teki. Was there any reason for that?

Studies that have been carried out over the years show that Geez language is one of the earliest languages in the world. We have a language that is broad and deep, but I don’t think we have used it to its full potential. Proper grammar is a backbone of a language. I wanted to contribute just a bit in how to use proper Tigrigna grammar and how it can be of great help in preserving our language. I consider Eritrea rich as it owns so many languages and we should work hard to keep their value.

  • Mr. Tekie. You are also someone known for translating into Tigrigna numerous classic books …

I grew up reading some great classic literary works. Those books have definitely left their marks in my mind and I really enjoyed them. I wanted to share with the public the knowledge and joy those books have given me.
I also used to write about cosmology in the national newspaper, Hadas Eritrea. I have always been interested in how the universe has been created and how it works. This is something about which I got a lot of response from the public.

  • Anything at last?

I would like to advise all individual writers to give a great deal of consideration to the proper usage of grammar when they write. When we start using grammar accurately, I believe that it can be a great help for the advancement of all the Eritrean languages. It is every writer’s responsibility. If we don’t work hard now and give this a priority, we are going to lose our language for good and would be forced to use other languages.

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