The official languages of Rwanda are Kinyarwanda
(a Bantu language) and French. Swahili is also used
in commercial dealings with neighbouring countries.
English is increasingly being used for business,
especially in urban areas.
Kinyarwanda is closely related to Kirundi, which
is the language spoken in Burundi. In both languages,
a slight difference in the length and tone of vowels
can affect the meaning of a word. Nouns are grouped
into 20 classes, indicated by different prefixes.
There are some regional dialects, and certain differences
between the dialects spoken by the Hutus and the
Tutsis, but, in general, most Rwandans can understand
Some of the people who left Rwanda in 1959 and have
recently returned to the country do not speak Kinyarwanda.
Those who lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo
usually speak Swahili, and those from Uganda usually
Greetings are an essential part of Rwandan social
life. In rural areas, one is expected to greet everyone
who passes. In urban areas, this is not possible,
but it is considered rude not to greet all friends
and acquaintances. Formal greetings contain wishes
such as "May you have many cows," or "May
you have children." Some people use special
Christian greetings such as "May Jesus be praised."
| Visiting relatives and
friends is an important activity in Rwanda. People
who do not regularly visit their relatives and friends
are considered anti-social. On special occasions,
visitors bring gifts. When a visitor arrives, the
host will usually offer beer to drink, as a sign
of hospitality and friendship.