Languages of Burundi

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Languages of Burundi
Bujumbura - Flickr - Dave Proffer (1).jpg
A bakery in Bujumbura, incorporating signage in French and Kirundi
Official languages Kirundi, English, French
Sign languages Burundian sign language

Since 2014, Burundi has three officially recognised languages: Kirundi, French, and English.[1][2] Of these, only Kirundi is spoken by the vast majority of the population. It is recognised as the national language by the Burundian constitution of 2005.[1] French is spoken by a significant minority and English has little effective presence. Both are spoken mainly as second languages or by foreign residents of the country. In addition, Swahili is spoken by a minority but has no formal status.[3]

Burundi is unusual among African states in having a single indigenous language shared by its entire population. In one estimate, 98 percent of Burundians speak Kirundi.[3] Under Belgian colonial rule (1919–62), Kirundi was taught whereas under German rule (1894–1916) Swahili had been encouraged.[3] In recent years, the Burundian government has promoted the use of Kirundi language as way to unify the country's different ethnic groups.[3]

The country is considered part of Francophonie. As a legacy of Belgian colonial rule, French has an important role in government, business, and the educated classes but only between 3 and 10 percent of the population speak the language fluently.[3] Burundian vernacular French also frequently incorporates loanwords from Kirundi, Lingala and other languages.[3] English was introduced as an official language in 2014 and is linked to Burundi's integration into the largely English-speaking East African Community but has little active presence in Burundi.[3]

Spoken languages without official recognition in Burundi include Swahili which is widely spoken in the African Great Lakes region.[3] It is especially used in commerce and in connection with the country's Muslim minority or with immigration from elsewhere in East Africa.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Uwimana, Diane (17 September 2014). "English is now official language of Burundi". Iwacu English News. Retrieved 11 November 2015. 
  2. ^ "Burundi: l'anglais officialisé aux côtés du français et du kirundi". Radio France International. RFI. 29 August 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Burundi". L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde. Université de Laval. Retrieved 23 October 2016. 

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