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Somali to English & English to Somali Translation

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The Somali Language


The Somali Language is a member of the Afro-Asiatic language family, and has historically been influenced by various languages, including English.

It was previously written using the Arabic alphabet but is now mainly written in a Latin-based alphabet. This change occurred mainly due to the British and Italian colonies. Because of Somalia’s colonial history, many Somalis also speak Italian or English. Arabic is also widely spoken and is also the official language of Somalia.

Origins and History:

  • The Somali language is known as Af-Soomaali and belongs to the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family of languages. 
  • Its roots can be traced back to the first millennium BCE, with connections to ancient civilisations like the Land of Punt, renowned in Ancient Egypt for its wealth. 
  • The Somali language was primarily a spoken language for most of its history. A formal writing system was adopted in the 20th century. 

Number of Speakers:

  • Somali is the mother tongue of the Somali people, the largest ethnic group in Somalia.
  • According to UNESCO, there are approximately 16 million Somali speakers worldwide as of 2023. 

Official Language Status:

  • Somali is the official language of the Federal Republic of Somalia. 
  • It is also recognised as a minority language in Djibouti and Ethiopia, where significant Somali-speaking populations exist. 

Example of Text:

  • “Soomaaliya waa dalka aan ku dhashay. Waxaan jecelahay inaan ku caawiyo horumarka.” This translates to, “Somalia is the country I was born in. I would love to contribute to its development.”
  •  A standard Somali greeting is “Is ka warran?” which translates to “How is it going?”


  • Somali is used in various contexts within Somalia and among the Somali diaspora worldwide. It is used in government, education, media, and everyday communication. 
  • Somali poetry is a significant aspect of the culture, known for its rich oral tradition. 

Influence on and from English:

  • Some Somali words have been incorporated into English, often through Somali interaction with the English-speaking world. A good example is ‘khat’ – a plant widely used for its stimulant properties in the Horn of Africa and Yemen.
  • Conversely, the Somali language has also absorbed several English words, particularly regarding technology and modern appliances. Examples include “telifishin” from “television”, “kambuutar” from “computer”, and “raadiyo” from “radio”. 


In conclusion, the Somali language is rich and ancient, steeped in history and vibrant in its contemporary use. It serves as a central unifying factor for Somalis in their homeland and across the globe, binding together a proud and enduring culture.

Here at Brightlines, we offer a range of Somali translation services, including; quality assurance, copywriting and voiceovers, and we believe Somali translation could help connect populations in Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

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Our translation services - FAQ

Do you use native translators?

Yes, always. All our translators are native speakers and most are still resident in their native country. We pride ourselves on ensuring that all Brightlines’ translators are native. We do not accept applications from non-native candidates or allow them to register on our online recruitment database. All our translators are rigorously tested.

How long will the translations take?

The turnaround for the translation will depend on the word count. As a rough guide, assume that the translators can comfortably process about 2500 words of non-specialised text per day. Proofreading can effectively be completed on a basis of 4000-6000 words a day. Our minimum turnaround time is usually about three days, although it is possible to shorten this if you are in a rush for the final files and we will always be happy to discuss this with you.

What is the variation in your translators’ experience and qualifications? Are they native speakers? Will the cost increase if we use a more experienced translator?

All our translators have to go through a series of tests to make sure they are as good as they say they are, and only if they pass are they allowed to work for Brightlines. There is quite a range of experience and qualifications, but all translators have a minimum of five years’ experience. All translators translate into their mother-tongue without exception and are generally based in-country so they are up-to-date with the local language. We match translators with projects/clients depending on the subject matter, and most of our translators have industry experience in their speciality – there is no better experience than being immersed professionally in the industry they specialise in. Our costs are based on translator experience, speciality (i.e. medical, creative, scientific) and the language choice.

Which languages can you translate into?

We have an extensive database with hundreds of trusted and tested translators covering all commercial languages. If you cannot see the language or dialect you need please ask.

I don’t know the word count; can you base the quote on the number of pages?

Our pricing structure is based on a rate-per-word, but we can estimate from a page count. If we can’t see the source document then we would usually estimate between 300 – 500 words a page depending on the density of the text and the presence of photos and images.

Does the translation need to be proofread?

Brightlines is an ISO 9001:2015 certified company. This means that quality is safeguarded. We adhere to the “four-eyes principle” and translations are always checked by a second professional proofreader (who is not the translator). If the translation is for internal use and reference purposes only (i.e. not to be published, distributed or used in a court of law), or you simply don’t wish to have proofreading, we can remove the proofreading stage.

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If you need Somali translations, get in touch with our team, or get a quick quote.