Kigali - Post Report Question and Answers

How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can get by very well with just English and French. Almost anybody I had to deal, from markets to taxis and restaurants speaks decent English. - Oct 2023

It is easy to get by with English, but of course some phrases in kinyarwanda are also very appreciated. - Aug 2023

I didn’t learn more than just greetings and manners in Kinyarwanda. French is also widely used. The embassy has a great tutor for both languages. - Jan 2022

For daily living in Kigali, you'll be fine with English, but even a few Kinyarwanda words and phrases will go a long way (at least in terms of making the locals smile, which can otherwise be a challenge). If you shop at Kimironko, knowing a bit more Kinyarwanda will be very helpful at first, but it's not essential, and you'll find people working the stands who will be able to communicate with you in English. If you're outside the city, you'll notice a decline in English-speaking ability, so better still to know at least some Kinyarwanda. French isn't taught in schools anymore, so only the older population speaks it, but as there are a decent number of Congolese living in Rwanda, French can be helpful. - Jul 2020

English is widely spoken at varying levels of fluency. With the old, West, rural, poor, or political opposition, French is sometimes useful. Every Rwandan will greatly appreciate even a few polite Kinyarwanda phrases. - Sep 2019

None, but you should learn the greetings. - Jun 2018

You don't need to know Kinyarwanda to get around. English is good, and if you know French it is even better as much of the older population speak more French than English. Rwandans love it if you try to speak Kinyarwanda though. - Dec 2017

You don't need the local language, but learning a little will expand your experience here. You can take lessons locally. - Jan 2017

None, but always nice to learn the basics. - Apr 2016

English is one of the main languages but learn a few Kinyarwanda phrases and it'll go a long way with the locals. - Oct 2014

You can get by fine with English. The population under 30 mostly speak English/Kinyarwanda. Over 30 French/Kinyarwanda. - Jul 2014

It would definitely help, but everyone gets by OK without knowing anything beyond pleasantries. Most Rwandans speak some English. - Sep 2013

English will get you far, French will help, and Kinyarwanda will get you smiles. - May 2012

You'll do fine with only English, be at an advantage with some French and be an amusement with Kinyarwanda. - Apr 2012

If you have Kinyarwanda, you will go far. But you can get by in english for most of the time. - Jul 2011

Just like in the rest of Africa, the more local language you know, the cooler you are to the locals. But, english is an official language, and a decent amount of people speak it, as well as french. - Oct 2010

None really. President Kagame is moving Rwanda away from French and to English. However market shopping is better if you speak the language, and of course it is always good for relations if you know friendly greetings and the like. Rwandans respect expats who can speak even a little of their language. - Jan 2010

People really like it and you gain a lot of respect if you use even just the slightest bit of kinyarwanda. Rwanda is also now becoming somewhat anglophone. - Sep 2008

Most governmental agencies and service oriented facilities have French and English speaking individiuals. English is what is being emphasized in schools. But that will be generations before most of the people outside of Kigali can communicate effectively in English. The local Rwandan language (Kenyarwandan) is utilized in the entire country. - Aug 2008

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