Ethiopia is a very diverse country, with more than 80 different ethnic groups and at least 70 languages spoken, a few by many millions of people, others by only a few hundred. Most people speak a Semitic or Cushitic language of which Amharic is Ethiopia's official language, a language that, with Tigrinya and Tigre, is descended from Ge'ez, still the liturgical language used in the Ethiopian church.
Amharic has its own alphabet with thirty-seven consonants of which the form changes depending upon which vowel sound follows it, making 251 different characters in the language. It used to be taught in all primary schools in Ethiopia, but has now been replaced in many areas by local languages. Of these, Oromo (formerly referred to as Galla, which is now considered a pejorative term) is the most widely spoken first language, used by more than 24 million people in Ethiopia and parts of northern Kenya as well.
It is estimated that about 44% of its 90 million people adhere to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, one of the few pre-colonial Christian Churches in Sub-Saharan Africa and the largest of all Oriental Orthodox Churches. About 34% of Ethiopian are Muslims. In the far south of Ethiopia live many tribal groups speaking Omotic and Nilo-Saharan languages, people that generally were little influenced by Orthodox Christianity, but retained their indigenous beliefs or in some cases converted to Islam or by foreign Christian missionaries.