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, French
Sign languages Burundian sign language

Burundi has two officially recognised languages: Kirundi and French. 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 is 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.[2]

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.[2] Under Belgian colonial rule (1919–62), Kirundi was taught whereas under German rule (1894–1916) Swahili had been encouraged.[2] In recent years, the Burundian government has promoted the use of Kirundi language as way to unify the country's different ethnic groups.[2]

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.[2] Burundian vernacular French also frequently incorporates loanwords from Kirundi, Lingala and other languages.[2]

Spoken languages without official recognition in Burundi include Swahili which is widely spoken in the African Great Lakes region.[2] It is especially used in commerce and in connection with the country's Muslim minority or with immigration from elsewhere in East Africa.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Uwimana, Diane (17 September 2014). "English is now official language of Burundi". Iwacu English News. Retrieved 11 November 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Burundi". L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde. Université de Laval. Retrieved 23 October 2016. 

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