Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

<< Postcolonial innovations and transformations: Putting language in the forefront

English in Burundi: A non-colonial heritage

Nizonkiza Deo (The University of Burundi)



Burundi like other African countries passed through colonial rule, which brought about a number of changes to its national linguistic and social life. Indeed, many transformations were initiated by the colonisers in all sectors of national life. Since language is the primary tool for communication, it played an important role in this colonial transformation, particularly in establishing and maintaining the first contacts. Today, many Burundians speak French - the coloniser’s language - which also happens to be the official language of the country. But English is also spoken even though it is not a colonial legacy. This is the outcome of the many changes initiated by the postcolonial period.

In fact, the present paper sets out to analyse the expanding role of English and the impact this has on the society in a francophone country like Burundi. With no doubt, English is gaining more and more grounds. It is taught in all the secondary schools in Burundi - both public and private, and is taught as a subject. In some private schools, it is even taught at the primary school level. English is also taught at the university level, particularly at the university of Burundi, in all the faculties and institutes. There is also a Department of English Language and Literature where students are trained and from where they graduate with a Bachelor of Arts. Most strikingly, in the last ten years language centres where English is taught have flourished more than ever before with more and more people streaming in to learn English.

This paper is based on a survey conducted in one of the language centres - English Language Centre Bujumbura, situated right in the capital of Burundi and reputed as the best. There, I consulted the enrolment registers for each term in order to have a picture of how many people were registered at the Centre in the past ten years. The survey revealed that the number of people increased tremendously. This compelled the centre to increase its size: it recruited new teachers and rented more rooms so as to satisfy these needs. In addition, the learners come from all sectors and include adults, youths, important personalities, workers, students, and so forth. This is proof that present day Burundians need English or are somehow forced to use it to cope with its spread across the world. The increasing need for translators and interpreters support the above and the English Language Centre is called upon to supply such needs. One of the major impacts of the expanding role of English in a francophone country, like Burundi, has been the increased role of translators and interpreters who now have the task of bridging the gap between the two linguistic communities.

Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-10-06