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Languages in Burundi and How I Learned English feat. Keke

Overall, the linguistic landscape in Burundi is multifaceted. Today, Keke will tell us more about the languages spoken in Burundi, in which context these different languages are used and how the use of language is changing. Also, we are going to get to know our Social Burundi Reporter a little better: Keke is going to outline how she learned English and how essential this skill is in her day-to-day life.

First, Keke told us more about languages in Burundi in general

"Here in Burundi, I can say that people speak languages depending on their level of education. Most educated people speak Kirundi and French and very few speak English. Most of the less educated people only speak Kirundi but there are also people who speak Kiswahili, especially those who do business or live in some regions where Kiswahili is spoken. As far as English is concerned, the integration of Burundi into the East African Community (EAC) has played a key role in pushing many educated people to learn English. Overall, there are several opportunities for English speakting Burundians, as English is an international language and, in most universities, abroad students are taught in English."

Children are standing in a classroom. They are wearing colourful clothing and smiling
School Children in Northern Burundi

Language Education and the role of English in Burundi

"The medium of instruction in Burundi educational system is French with the exception of some private schools where courses are carried out in English. This implies that learning English requires the motivation to be attentive in class if English is taught or taking English courses in learning centers or having the opportunity to live in an English-speaking country such as Kenya. In my case, except for basic knowledge from secondary school, I had the opportunity to go and live in Kenya for a period of two years. My friends and the environment itself helped me enhance my English communication thanks to the fact that English is the language of instruction in Kenya."

English is becoming more and more important

"Overall, the expansion of language is booming because of the increase in people's need to travel abroad to study or to find a job. There is also the impact of trade; Burundi has to acknowledge English and Swahili both as the most functional languages in the trade sector. For example, I noticed that most labels on items in shops are mainly written in English. Also, as already mentionet, with the integration of Burundi into the EAC (East African Community), many Burundians were motivated to learn this language."

Keke is standing in a white room. She is wearing a blouse and smiling

A couple of months ago, Keke started an English course at the University of Bujumbura

"I started my English class two months ago. Twice a week, on Thursdays and Saturdays, I visit the course at university. But we also have classes online on Monday and Friday. I do really like my English class because with it I'm able to communicate with English-speaking people. As you already know, our country is French-speaking, so to be able to speak English is a pleasure for me. These days, more Burundians are learning how to speak English very well. To be one of these people learning English makes me proud. I'm sure after the course, I will be very good at communicating in English."

English is essential in Keke's life as an artist

"As an artist I use English in the songs I sing and this is what is missing for most Burundians as they don't have where to practice the little English they know. At home and at work they speak Kirundi or French and the fact that we have one common language is a hindrance in learning other languages."

For Bean United, it is essential to learn more about education in Burundi; for large large parts of the funds created by selling Bean United coffee support education in Burundi.

Burundian children are receiving their school meals
School Meal Program

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