The official language of Rwanda is Kinyarwanda which has evolved from the Niger-Congo language family. Kinyarwanda is also spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as some parts of Uganda. Rwanda also has four national languages and they are French, English, and Swahili, as well as the aforementioned Kinyarwanda, and many citizens, are bilingual.


Kinyarwanda is spoken by almost all of the population of the country as a first or second language (11.9 million), this contrasts other African nations who do not recognize ethnic boundaries or pre-European colonial kingdoms as Rwanda does. The language is spoken by the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa ethnicities and developed during the 15th century as somewhat of a cultural identifier. Kinyarwanda is the main language for business, institutions, and media in Rwanda.


Hello in Kinyarwanda is said as "mu-ra-ho" and pleased to meet you is said as "nishi-mi-ye ku-ba men-ya". The language is relatively easy to learn basic phrases in, but a deeper conversation will require a lot of practice. One of the favorite phrases for tourists is "hakuna matata", meaning no worries or no problem. Many Rwandan citizens will have a small knowledge of both English and French if communication is difficult in Kinyarwanda.


French was once an official language of Rwanda but is now an endangered national language. In recent years, the Rwandan government has shifted from using French as an educational language to English as an effort for citizens to assimilate with western media and economic trade. Just 0.1% of Rwandans speak French as a first or second language. English is spoken by just 0.2% of the population fluently, but this number is growing rapidly. The adoption of English, as well as Swahili, has greatly improved literacy rates across the country.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018