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Rwanda 

Kinyarwanda
Murakaza neza- Welcome

Rwanda, also called Kinyarwanda, Rwanda or Ruanda, is a Bantoid language that belongs to the Benue-Congo branch of the Niger-Congo language family. It is spoken by 6.5 million people in the Republic of Rwanda  by over 90% of the country’s population.  It is also spoken by 25,000 people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo mapand by 450,000 people in Burundi and southern Uganda, where it is known as Fumbira. The total number of Rwanda speakers is estimated at 7.3 million people (Ethnologue). The language is intelligible with Rundi (Kirundi), spoken in Burundi and Tanzania.

Status

Rwanda is one of the official languages of the Republic of Rwanda, along with English and French. Unlike most other African countries with a multitude of languages, Rwanda has only these three languages. As a result, all Rwandans speak Rwanda, the language of primary education. Above the primary level, instruction is either in English or in French.

Dialects

Ethnologue identifies a number of dialects of Rwanda. They are reportedly very similar to each other.

  • Bufumbwa
  • Gitwa
  • Hutu
  • Igikiga
  • Kiga
  • Ikinyanduga
  • Rutwa (Twa)

Structure

Sound system

The sound system of Rwanda shares many features with other Bantu languages, such as the presence of prenasalized consonants and the use of tones.

Vowels
Rwanda has five vowel phonemes, i.e., sounds that make a difference in word meaning. They are given below.

Close
i
u
Mid
e
o
Open
a

 

Consonants
Rwanda has 24 consonant phonemes presented in the table below. Their orthographic representations are given in parentheses.

Labio-dental Postalveolar
Stops voiceless plain
p
 
t (t)
 
xxc (c)
k (k)
 
voicelessprenasalized    
ⁿt (nt)
   
ᵑk (nk)
 
voiceless palatalized          
kj (cy)
 
voiced    
d (d)
 
ɟ (j)
g
 
Fricatives voiceless  
f (f)
s (s)
ʃ (sh)
   
h (h)
voiced
β (b)
v (v)
z (z)
       
Nasalsxx
m (m)
 
n (n)
 
ɲ (ny)
ŋ (ng’)
 
Lateral    
l (l)
       
Flap or /trill    
ɾ (r)
  xxx xxx  
Approximants
w (w)
  xxx  
j (y)
xxx  
  • /ⁿt, ᵑk/ are prenasalized stops. Prenasalized consonants are sequences of nasal plus another consonant that behave like a single sound unit.
  • /c, ɟ/ have no equivalents in English.
  • /kj/ is a palatalized stop. Palatalization is a secondary articulation of consonants in which the body of the tongue is raised toward the hard palate during the articulation of the consonant.
  • /ʃ/ = sh in shop
  • /β/ has no equivalent in English
  • /ɲ/ / = first n in canyon
  • /ŋ/ = ng in sing
  • /j/ = y in yet

 

Tones
Tones play an important role in Rwanda, as they do in many other Niger-Congo languages. They are used to distinguish between otherwise identical words and to mark grammatical functions.

Grammar

The grammar of Rwanda shares many features with other Bantu languages.

Nouns

  • Rwanda nouns belong to ten noun classes. Although the content of some noun classes is semantically transparent, there is a great deal of unpredictability in determining whether a noun with a particular meaning belongs to a certain class. Each noun class is associated with a particular prefix, one in the singular, and another in the plural. For instance, Class I nouns that denote human beings are marked with the prefix (u)mu– in the singular, and the prefix (a)ba- in the plural, e.g., umugabo ‘man’ and abagabo ‘men’.

 

Verbs

  • Rwanda verbs consist of a root which may be extended by the addition of various prefixes. For example, one of the prefixes is a subject marker that shows agreement with the subject of the clause.
  • All  verb infinitives begin with the prefix gu-/gw– or ku-/kw-.
  • Tenses are marked with infixes, such as -ra– for present progressive, -za- for future, -racya– for continuous progressive.
  • Aspect is marked by a suffix.

 

Word order
The normal word order in Rwanda is Subject-Verb-Object.

Vocabulary

Rwanda has borrowed many words from EnglishFrench, and Swahili.

Here are some common Rwanda words and phrases.

Hello Muraho
Good bye (farewell) Murabeho
Thank you Murakoze
Excuse me Imbabazi / Ndasaba inzira
Yes Yego
No Oya
Man Umugabo
Woman Umugore

Below are Rwanda numerals 1-10.

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
limwe
kabiri
gatatu
kane
gatanu
gatandatu
kalindwi
umunani
icyenda
icumi

 

 

Writing

Rwanda has been written with a standardized orthography since the 1940s.

A a
B b
C c
Cy cy
D d
E e
F f
G g
H h
I i
J j
Jy jy
K k
L l
M m
N n
Nk nk
Nt nt
Ny ny
O o
P p
R r
S s
Sh sh
T t
U u
V v
W w
Y y
Z z

 

Take a look at Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Rwanda.

Abantu bose bavuka aliko bakwiye agaciro no kwubahwa kimwe. Bose bavukana ubwenge n’umutima, bagomba kugilirana kivandimwe.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Difficulty

Language Difficulty
questionHow difficult is it to learn Kinyarwanda?
There is no data on the difficulty of rwanda for speakers of English.

One Response to Rwanda

  1. Pingback: Kinyarwanda Speakers Welcomed | Culturally Responsive Instruction for English Learners Project

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