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
OfficialKirundi, French, English
SignedBurundian sign language

Since 2014 Burundi has three official languages: Kirundi, French and English[1]. By the same law on languages promulgated in 2014[2] Kiswahili is mentioned as a fourth language spoken and taught in the country. 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.[3] French is spoken by a significant minority and is spoken mainly as a second language, as a French pidgin, or by foreign residents of the country.

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.[4] Under Belgian colonial rule (1919–62), Kirundi was taught whereas under German rule (1894–1916) Swahili had been encouraged.[4] In recent years, the Burundian government has promoted the use of Kirundi language as way to unify the country's different ethnic groups.[4]

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.[4] Burundian vernacular French also frequently incorporates loanwords from Kirundi, Lingala and other languages.[4]

Spoken languages in Burundi include Swahili which is widely spoken in the African Great Lakes region.[4] It is especially used in commerce and in connection with the country's Muslim minority or with immigration from elsewhere in East Africa.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Les approches bi-plurilingues d'enseignement-apprentissage: autour du programme Écoles et langues nationales en Afrique (ELAN-Afrique): Actes du colloque du 26-27 mars 2015
  2. ^ L’an 2014
  3. ^ Uwimana, Diane (17 September 2014). "English is now official language of Burundi". Iwacu English News. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Burundi". L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde. Université de Laval. Retrieved 23 October 2016.

External links[edit]