What Languages Are Spoken In Burundi?

The flag of Burundi.
The flag of Burundi.

In Burundi, three languages have official recognition since 2014. These are French, English, and the indigenous language of Kirundi. However, despite French and English being the official languages of the country, there are only a few speakers of these languages living in Burundi. Kirundi is the language of the majority of the people of the nation.

French and English are spoken as the first language mainly by the foreign residents of Burundi. The natives of the country usually speak these languages as second languages. French in the country is a legacy of the Belgian colonial rule in Burundi. The country is regarded as a member of the Francophonie. The French language is popular among the elite and educated of Burundi. It is also used by the government and businesses. However, only 3 to 10% of the country’s population are fluent in French. Vernacular French which is more common among the masses uses loanwords from Kirundi and other indigenous languages.

The presence of English in Burundi is even less significant than that of the French language. The language received the official status only in 2014 with the objective that it would help build relations between Burundi and the East African community where English is the most spoken language.

National Language Of Burundi

Kirundi, a Bantu language, is recognized as the national language of Burundi by the Burundian constitution of 2005. The language is spoken by about 9 million people in Burundi and the neighboring nations. Around 98% of the country’s population speaks Kirundi, a unique feature for an African country since in most African countries no single indigenous language is shared by the entire population. The language was promoted during the Belgian rule in Burundi when it was taught in schools. The government of Burundi also encourages the use of the language as a means of uniting the people of various ethnicities living in the country.

Major Minority Languages Of Burundi

After Kurundi, Swahili is the second most spoken minority language in Burundi. However, the language does not have any official recognition in the country. The use of the language was encouraged during the German rule in Burundi. The language assists in commerce and communication with foreign merchants, immigrants from East Africa, and the Muslim minority in the country.


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