Languages of Burundi
|Languages of Burundi|
|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. 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.
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. Under Belgian colonial rule (1919–62), Kirundi was taught whereas under German rule (1894–1916) Swahili had been encouraged. In recent years, the Burundian government has promoted the use of Kirundi language as way to unify the country's different ethnic groups.
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. Burundian vernacular French also frequently incorporates loanwords from Kirundi, Lingala and other languages.
Spoken languages without official recognition in Burundi include Swahili which is widely spoken in the African Great Lakes region. It is especially used in commerce and in connection with the country's Muslim minority or with immigration from elsewhere in East Africa.