How to Learn Kinyarwanda Online

Updated April 17, 2017

Kinyarwanda, also referred to as Rwanda, is a Bantu language spoken in the African nations of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kinyarwanda, a mostly oral language, had no written tradition before European contact. Today there are numerous written materials in Kinyarwanda, which is written with a form of the Latin alphabet. If you are interested in learning Kinyarwanda online, you will find a number of resources for self-study, as well as opportunities to get in contact with native speakers.

Familiarise yourself with the sounds of Kinyarwanda and learn some basic phrases. Kinyarwanda doesn't have its own alphabet, but it has a standardised spelling system using the Latin alphabet. The sounds of the letters for Kinyarwanda are similar to the sounds for English. However, some letter combinations have been included in the Kinyarwanda system to more accurately represent the sounds of Kinyarwanda. Become familiar with the International Phonetic Alphabet to be able to read and understand the transliteration of such letters as Cy, Jy, Nk, Nt, Ny and Sh. They are shown in a chart on the online resource Omniglot. This resource also features a list of some online learning tools, as well as a link to a Kinyarwanda/English online dictionary.

Practice the tones. Tonal languages can be a challenge for those not familiar with the concept. Tones in language refer to the sound the voice makes as it goes up or down when speaking (as when in English the voice "rises" at the end of a question). Pay attention to practicing the tones as you learn the words, as mispronouncing them will affect the meaning of a word and may cause you to be misunderstood. Exaggerate the pronunciation of the tones as you first learn them to get used to the concept and to make it a habit. Listening to Kinyarwanda and repeating will help you become more comfortable with the tonal aspect of the language. Listen to and read news in Kinyarwanda on BBC Gahuza online.

Find a Kinyarwanda-speaking language partner. You can find an online language exchange partner through the website My Language Exchange. Make a profile on My Language Exchange for free and display the languages that you can offer to teach. Indicate that you are interested in learning Kinyarwanda (listed on this site as Rwanda). In your profile, you can also list your reasons for wanting to learn the language and whether you have a preference for a partner from a specific country. Arrange to chat on Skype to get feedback on your pronunciation, tonal usage and grammar structure.

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About the Author

Pamela Ann Ludwig has lived, worked and studied on five continents. Her articles can be seen online at various websites. She holds a Master of Arts degree in history from San Francisco State University and has experience teaching different dance disciplines as well as English to speakers of other languages.