The word Somali originally came from the two words Soo and Maal, literally meaning “Go and milk it”. A surprising name until you know that they were traditionally nomadic, keeping cattle, sheep and camels to provide subsistence and trade.
Over the years, there have been many influences from other cultures. Due to its proximity to the Arabic and predominantly Muslim countries of the Middle East, signs of Islamic influence have been found in ancient Somali tombs.
Apart from loanwords that entered the language through colonization by both the British and Italian, the language has seen changes in its writing system going from the Arabic script, to Osmanya – a locally developed writing system, before settling on the Latin based scripts used today.
Somali is a tonal language, which means, like most other tonal languages, even slight changes in inflection alter the meanings of words, so be careful! That doesn’t mean you should be discouraged though, and the challenge just makes it more fun.