Everything You Need to Know About the Kinyarwanda Language

Everything You Need to Know About the Kinyarwanda Language
(Last Updated On: November 6, 2023)

Kinyarwanda Language

After the release of Black Panther, everybody wished Wakanda was real and not only because it is a beautiful place but because of what it represents. But that’s the thing about movies and TV shows, no matter how much we like them, we can’t live in the world they have created, we have to exist in the real world. And the real world can be pretty disappointing at times. For instance, there is no metal named Vibranium in the real world, no king in an African country with superpowers. But just because our world can’t live up to the universe shown in the movies, doesn’t mean it is all bad.

Kinyarwanda Language Origin

There are plenty of things in the real world that can give a tough competition to the movies. In fact, there are things on earth that you won’t find in any of the movies. The problem is that most of us are unaware of these hidden gems, simply because we are too caught up in the stereotypes we have created. Everyone thinks that Asians are super smart. But that stereotype often adds tremendous pressure on Asian kids who fail to perform well at school. Such stereotypes leave an everlasting impact on people.

Just like people in the West have stereotypes about Asians, Asians imagine life is great for everyone living in Europe or the USA. But in truth, the homeless in America live a pretty tough life and do not enjoy the white privilege that their fellow countrymen abuse freely. There are also a few stereotypes that almost everyone in the world thinks are true, except the people they are about. For instance, the majority of people think that Africa is a scary place where crime and diseases are common and no one is ever safe. Although that thought may be true about some little part of the African continent, it doesn’t apply to every country in Africa. And if we are talking about crimes, then don’t they happen everywhere in the world?

  • What language is Kinyarwanda?

    Kinyarwanda is a Bantu language that is native to Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Tanzania. It is spoken by nearly 10 million people. It is mutually intelligible with Kirundi, which is the official language of Burundi. Out of the four official languages of Rwanda, Kinyarwanda is the only one that is spoken by all the native population. The language is a national language/ethnic language and the most widely spoken in the country, with about 93% of the population using the language.

    Rwanda is a small East African country that is landlocked. The Rwandese people’s culture and belief system revolve around their language. Kinyarwanda, French, and English are the three main languages spoken in Rwanda. These three languages are also recognized by the government. Interactions with other members of the East African society resulted in the Swahili language being introduced into the country, particularly for economic purposes. The adoption and use of these languages have been influenced by the country’s pre-colonial, colonial, postcolonial, and post-genocide periods.

    Kinyarwanda has suffered from the benign neglect that has befallen many other African languages in terms of mass literacy, as French was preserved as the language of prestige and political authority immediately after independence.

  • Rwanda's Language Policies

    Since 1996, Rwanda’s English language policy has played and continues to play a crucial role in the country’s social reconstruction following war and genocide. Rwanda’s new English language strategy intends to eliminate French from the curriculum and replace it with English as the only language of instruction. Policymakers see the shift as critical to the achievement of social and educational reforms aimed at promoting reconciliation and peace while also enhancing Rwanda’s contribution to global economic development.

    In Rwanda, however, the language one speaks is interpreted as a sign of one’s group affiliations and identity. Rwanda also has the ability to adopt a multilingual educational program that uses Kinyarwanda (Ikinyarwanda, Rwanda) as its national language to foster mass literacy and a literate, multilingual population. Rwanda’s position might be used as an example of how language policy continues to play a part in power dynamics.

    Rwanda is unique in that it has only one autochthonous language while most African countries are multilingual. Despite the fact that French was the colonial language, just around 0.1 percent of Rwandans speak it. Transitional bilingualism occurs when primary school graduates who are able to progress to high school go from learning in their mother tongue to learning in an ex-colonial language.

  • How do you say hello in Kinyarwanda?

    Kinyarwanda is one of the four official languages of Rwanda and has almost 10 million native speakers. It is also spoken in Uganda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Kinyarwanda, you can say ‘uraho’ to greet someone. But if you are responding to a hello, then you would have to say ‘uraho nawe.’

  • Is Kinyarwanda similar to Swahili?

    Kinyarwanda and Swahili are both official languages of Rwanda, along with English and French. But the two hardly share any similarities. Both Kinyarwanda and Swahili are Bantu languages. But they are very different from each other. Kinyarwanda is mutually intelligible with Kirundi, which is spoken in the neighboring country of Burundi.

    Dynamic verbs use the imperfective stem in the immediate tense, whereas stative verbs use the perfective stem, and both use the imperfective stem in the habitual or gnomic tense. There are ten classes of nouns, leading to a lot of randomnesses to determine what class the noun belongs in.

  • What is I love you in Kinyarwanda?

    Rwanda is a multilingual country, but the most popular vernacular which is spoken by almost all the natives is Kinyarwanda. There are simple words in Kinyarwanda for complex emotions. You can say I love you in Kinyarwanda with the word ‘ndagukunda.’ If you want to say I love you so much in Kinyarwanda then you will have to use the phrase ‘ndagukunda cyane.’

  • What language is Kinyarwanda similar to?

    Kinyarwanda belongs to the Bantu subgroup of the Niger-Congo language family’s central branch. It is closely similar to Burundi’s Kirundi language. The Rwandan language and Kirundi, which are spoken in Burundi, are mutually intelligible.

  • Which country language is Kinyarwanda?

    Kinyarwanda is an African Bantu language spoken in Rwanda. It is sometimes known as Ikinyarwanda or Urunyarwanda.

  • Is Kinyarwanda difficult to learn?

    Speaking the Kinyarwanda language is difficult, although I would argue it is not quite as difficult as listening.

  • Is Kinyarwanda a dying language?

    Despite the fact that written Kinyarwanda may be on the point of extinction, spoken Kinyarwanda appears to be very much alive. A Kinyarwanda culture academy is currently being established by the government in order to improve language learning and ability.

The Hidden Gems in Africa:


Natural beauty is in abundance in Africa but there are also countries that have exceeded people’s expectations and have performed well on all fronts in the last few decades. The continent has a rich history. The oldest human remains that date back to almost 200,000 years were discovered in Ethiopia. The wildlife in Africa needs no introduction. There is a reason wildlife photographers camp in the continent frequently to catch animals in their natural habitat.

The world’s biggest river and biggest desert both are in Africa. Rwanda, one of the world’s safest countries, is also in Africa. The crime rate in Rwanda is pretty low and when it comes to tourists, crime is almost extinct. The country is not only famous for its tree gardens and greenery but also for its delicious food, friendly locals, and lakeside resorts. Anyone who is visiting Rwanda, can’t resist staying at one of the many lakeside resorts, if only for the view from the window.

The country is also pretty active in its efforts against global warming. Government-backed tree plantation drives and nationwide plastic bags ban will make you wonder if Wakanda is real and you never noticed it.

Kinyarwanda Language:

The official language of Rwanda is Kinyarwanda but it is also spoken in other African countries. It is also native to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, and Uganda. Although Rwanda has three other official languages too (English, French, and Kiswahili), the majority of the population speaks Kinyarwanda. The language has over forty million native speakers in the four countries where it’s spoken.

Everything You Need to Know About the Kinyarwanda Language:

There are many interesting aspects about the language of Rwanda. Whether you want to learn the language or just want to know more about it out of curiosity, here are the best facts about Kinyarwanda:

  • Kinyarwanda is a tonal language, which means there is a contrast between the high and low tones. The tonal system is based on a complex set of phonological rules.
  • There are over a thousand languages spoken in the African continent but Kinyarwanda has managed to stay the only native language of its people. Even the three other official languages in Rwanda have failed to take their place.
  • The power of Kinyarwanda made it cross borders and become famous in other countries too. That’s why the people of Uganda and Congo also speak it regularly.
  • Kinyarwanda is the language of communication in school. Kids start learning all the rules of the language from an early class. This step was taken to shake off the impact of French and English and reconnect children with their true roots.
  • It is a part of the Bantu language family, which in turn is a sub-group of the Niger-Congo family.
  • Kinyarwanda uses a Latin script for writing which also speaks about the history of the language and how long it has been around.

If you plan on visiting an African country this year, keep Rwanda in your mind. Not only will you get to enjoy the natural beauty of the country but also the friendly nature and hospitality of the local population. It is up to us to defeat stereotypes and get to know each other better. But we can’t do any of that from the comfort of our homes. We need to get out in the world and interact with each other to make first-hand impressions, instead of believing the lies of the media. Hopefully, a trip to Rwanda will change things for you.

Hey Siri, Learn to Speak Kinyarwanda

The most popular voice assistants don’t recognize a single native African language. Now thousands across the continent are donating their voices to change that.

When directed at one of the three most popular voice assistants in the world, Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant, the response is invariably courteous but perplexing: Sorry, I don’t understand… That’s because, despite the fact that Africa has over 1,000 native languages, each with its own distinct accents and speech patterns, none of the three most bestselling voice assistants can understand any of them.

The goal of “Digital Umuganda” was to adapt this concept to create a new type of speech data infrastructure at universities, tech hubs, and community spaces every month. “It was more like bringing together people from different colleges and teaching them about the benefits of voice technology in their original languages,” explains Remy Muhire, the community lead for Common Voice Kinyarwanda. “It’s a difficult endeavor, but having solid data would give us a great advantage.” GIZ is responsible for this image. Prospective contributors were typically persuaded of the importance of inclusive technology and innovation by personalizing the issue, according to Muhire.

The Mozilla Foundation’s Chenai Chair emphasizes that contributors’ privacy is a priority — the data collected from them is both minimal and anonymous. Certain basic types of information, like age and gender, help the project ascertain how a certain demographic speaks. While working in the community, says Chair, “Whatever data is collected, we ensure the safety and security parameters so that it doesn’t end up being misused.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, contributions to the Common Voice project have moved entirely online. While this removes the hassle of organizing physical events, it highlights issues of internet access and affordability. Pre-pandemic, spaces used for data collection events were equipped with strong wifi connections. Now, some would-be participants are stymied by poor or expensive connectivity issues. Also, lack of supervision or in-person instruction can lead to poor quality data donations.

“Working in NLP [natural language processing] for low-resource languages is a challenging task in and of itself, because of a lack of data,” says Kathleen Siminyu, Mozilla’s Kiswahili machine learning engineer. “I will say that data quality is a key factor that does not get as much ‘airtime’ as data quantity.”

“It is a challenging task but good quality data would give us a huge advantage, which is why how we engage with the communities at the point of data collection will probably be the most important step of this entire pipeline.”

As it compiles data on languages long neglected by big tech, Common Voice is aiming to avoid the mistakes that contribute to the growing problem of AI bias. For instance, voice recognition tends to work better for men than for women and often struggles to understand people with accents varying from those considered standard.

“From a common voice perspective, what we are doing is thinking about it from a design perspective which will include ensuring we have representative datasets or data samples that represent both men and women,” Chair says. Inclusivity, she says, must be fundamental to the process, “from design to collection to implementation.”

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