Tigrinya, Tigre and Arabic are considered the country's three main languages, although there are many other indigenous languages and dialects. Most Eritreans speak more than one local language, and a few also speak Italian and English.
Tigrinya, which is spoken by the majority of the population, is considered the country's working language, along with Arabic. Thought to have descended from the ancient language of Ge'ez, Tigrinya has over 200 characters in written form, each with a distinctive sound. Although Tigre is also descended from Ge'ez, it is not similar to Tigrinya. Tigre's pronunciation and usage also vary between geographic regions.
A large proportion of Eritrea's Muslim population speaks Arabic; this number is increasing with the return of Eritreans from Sudan and the Middle East.
Each ethnic group in Eritrea has its own language. Afar, Hedareb, Blin and Saho are Cushitic languages. Kunama and Nara are from the Nilotic group. Apart from Tigrinya and Tigre, many Eritrean languages use Latin or Arabic scripts.
Eritreans are very friendly and hospitable people. They will commonly stop tourists and ask them about their travels and well-being. Greetings are elaborate. In formal situations, Eritreans shake hands with each person, asking about their health and family. Close friends of the same gender greet each other by kissing several times on both cheeks.
The words thank you are rarely used in Eritrea, possibly because the Tigrinya word for thank you, yeKenyeley, sounds quite formal. Eritreans also do not expect to be thanked for small favours. They consider it their duty to help friends or acquaintances. Television in Eritrea is limited to cities. Radio reaches most of the rural population and is the best way to disseminate information; however, the government censors all media in Eritrea.