KIGALI is increasingly strengthening its cosmopolitan muscle, a fact that compels non-English speakers to take expedient measures that enable them mutter some English words and consequently, speak the Queen’s language.
Doing business in town or even far into the countryside, is not easy without having a good command of Kinyarwanda as it is for English.
The clientele in Rwanda is varied and it goes without saying, that being multilingual is indispensable. However, the fact that English cuts across many cultures puts it at an advantage. A very high percentage of foreigners in the country are able to communicate in English, than any other language.
A monumental problem emerges when a non- Kinyarwanda speaker wants to transact with people who cannot communicate in English. More often than not, these encounters are as comical as they are distressing.
From a linguistics point of view, language is power. Without a proper command of a language, your power is usurped by your linguistic incompetence. We get things done, we persuade, we dissuade and even earn by making utterances. Words do not just communicate meaning—they are a force.
By learning a new language, you gain new horizons, and at the same time, you reinforce your own identity hence boosting self-confidence. A foreign language can contribute to a stronger personality.
Apparently, foreign languages are an essential quality of a lover. In Shakespeare’s great comedy “Twelfth Night”, we hear a gentleman being praised: He plays the viol-de-gamboys, speaks three or four languages and hath all the good gifts of nature.
Undoubtedly, English and even Kiswahili are to play a central role in integrating the Rwandan population with the Anglophone world whose interest in Rwanda continues to soar by the day.
To meet a stranger and shy away from talking to him or her, or failing to sell a product or deliver service, simply because of your inability to speak English, is appalling.
Taking the extra effort to enroll for a short English course around town is not rocket science. It takes courage, enthusiasm and hard work to make the necessary plans to save the right budget (which is usually cheap) and enroll for an English class.