Italian is a legacy of Italian colonial period when Eritrea was part of Italian East Africa. In fact, Eritrea is the Italian form of the Greek name Ἐρυθραίᾱ (Erythraíā ), meaning "red [land]". Although it was the primary language since colonial rule, Italian greatly declined after the Italian surrender in World War II in 1941 when the territory was put under British military rule and experienced suffering under war of independence, because of this, many Italians and Italian-educated people were expelled under British military rule and many Italian-educated people left when war of independence broke out. However, Italian is still widely spoken and understood and remains a principal language in commerce and education; the capital city Asmara still has an Italian-language school. Refugees from Italy or Switzerland and their children who speak Italian formed communities in Eritrea.
While phonology and intonation are affected by native Eritrean languages, including Tigrinya and Arabic, Eritrean Italian is based on standard European form. The Italian lexicon in Eritrea has some loanwords of Tigrinya and Arabic origin, the latter especially includes Islamic terms.
- "Scuola Italiana di Asmara (in Italian)". Scuoleasmara.it. Retrieved 2010-04-21.