The world marked International Mother Language Day on February 21. The focus this year was around the adoption of technology to advance better learning and teaching with a multi-lingual approach in mind. Rwanda has four official languages; Kinyarwanda, Swahilli, French and English. However, with globalisation and integration, there are concerns that Kinyarwanda will become extinct. It is the most spoken language in the country, but people seem to be more interested in learning and speaking foreign languages. Geoffrey Kagame, through Inteko Izirakana, a local NGO, is determined to keep Kinyarwanda and grow its influence. The New Times’ Jade Natacha Iriza asked him how he plans on achieving his goals. Do you actually think Kinyarwanda risks extinction? Yes. If you analyse the way the youth are using Kinyarwanda these days, you can see that the language of Kinyarwanda is being distorted. For example, nowadays, most of the artists, when they are composing their songs, the words that the use are not Kinyarwanda. They are just words they create and most of the time young people immediately adopt those words thinking that they are real. But in Kinyarwanda, there are words we borrowed from other languages. For example, radio, television, and more. So maybe call it evolution instead of an extinction? Yeah, it is important to get some words from other languages and use them in Kinyarwanda. It is better when those words are necessary and are beneficial to our daily life. But you can see people bringing words they get from films, videos,...they bring words that are not even necessary to the development of our language. Allow me to challenge you a little bit, how do you determine a word is beneficial to our language or not? Its use. Let me give you an example of science. When you are studying science there are words that cant be translated to Kinyarwanda. In chemistry, there are some elements that are common everywhere so we keep it as it is. If there is a word in chemistry, or maybe from the innovation of ICT, and we dont have anything to replace, we normally call it how it is. That is beneficial in the development of ICT in Rwanda Then what is the point of preserving Kinyarwanda? Is it necessary? It is necessary. Because if someone sees that you are Rwandan, it is the language and the culture which define you. It means when you lose the language and the culture, you lose the meaning of being Umunyarwanda. Preserving the language is preserving our identity and dignity. If you are abroad and you hear someone speak Kinyarwanda, you get excited because they are speaking Kinyarwanda and you are Munyarwanda too. Please explain more on why identity is important? Years ago being called Rwandan was somewhat shameful due to the history of the Genocide against Tutsi. But now you can see when Paris Saint Germain is playing it is written everywhere ‘Visit Rwanda’. We are making a lot of effort so that Rwanda can be known everywhere in the world. Even our president said that Rwanda has changed for better. So if we have changed for good, then why cant we preserve our good language, which is Kinyarwanda so that everyone will have interest in speaking it. Young people today are no longer ashamed to be identified as Rwandans, so why not proudly speak Kinyarwanda? How do we get people to proudly speak Kinyarwanda? In 1997, when I was in primary school we used a book called Hobe to study. At the end of the semester, the student who answered correctly from the book received an award. This was a form of creating pride that is no longer practiced. Small actions like this make a difference. Sensitization is another way. Not only from the government but also from parents. Parents think that to be branded“abasirimu” kids must use English at home. So, from that the kids grow up speaking foreign [Western] languages. The kids speak English at school, on the bus and at home. Parents should change that. What are your favorite Kinyarwanda words? First of all, it is Rwanda because being Rwandan is my dignity! It is something Im proud of. Another is Rwema, my son is named Rwema. It means standing confidently without shaking. What message would you like to end with? Parents should understand that talking to their children in Kinyarwanda is not a shame. Toyoung people, know that being Umunyarwanda something to be proud of. To schools, do more to teach Kinyarwanda.