It doesn’t happen often in this town, especially in the affluent areas. It is rare to find a middle class family speaking Kinyarwanda with their children. So you can imagine my joy when I came across one two weeks ago. I stared in disbelief (think of that) but all the time a smile playing on my lips and warmth glowing in my heart. I then remembered my manners and stopped staring. I was in the lounge of one of the health facilities waiting for my turn to get my back repaired for the bumps and strains it has been subjected to all these many decades. I am glad to report that after 15 sessions it is in fairly good shape to carry me around for a few more as my maker may deem it necessary to grant me. Across from me was a young middle-class couple with lively twin daughters (they appeared so anyway). The liveliness of the little girls was attention-grabbing itself. But there was more. Wonder of wonders! The little darlings spoke Kinyarwanda with their parents and everyone else in the room. Now, you may think that is strange. Joy at hearing Rwandan children speaking Kinyarwanda in Rwanda? Nothing remarkable. That’s normal, isn’t it? Yes, except that it isn’t. You are actually more likely to find such families speaking English or French, or happily switching from one to the other. I was tempted to congratulate the young couple on what was clearly unusual, although right. But I checked the urge. That might be considered a little too assuming or familiar (gushyanuka). What if they said: what did you expect? I would look very foolish. Would I perhaps go on about the trend towards foreign languages and how terrible it was? How it could lead to a loss or confusion of identity – actually having no culture? They might laugh at me and remind me to mind my business or simply ignore me and to show me I was really stupid, speak in one of the usual foreign languages or maybe Slavonic or Icelandic. So I resisted the temptation. You see I am not the preaching type and I hate people who preach to me as if I were a complete ignoramus. I had also heard of unpleasant experiences of some people who had dared to remark about the practice to parents or had merely looked in astonishment at these Rwandan foreign language speaking families in Rwanda. They said they had had such a stare as to freeze whatever thought they had in their mind or told to shut up and to get lost. For many of the young people, through no fault of their own, English or French have become their first language. The mother tongue? None. If you want to apportion blame, you have many choices. The parents, for instance, who are convinced they are equipping their children with the tools to fit into and a chance to compete in the global system. They do not seem to be aware of the harm they may be doing, or if they are, think the price is worth it. There is also the mindset that seems to equate foreignness with excellence, promoted by a constant barrage of cultural influences from outside. The unspoken, but certainly intended, effect is to make the local, including language, appear inferior. A few years ago when there was some debate on the language policy in education where learning in the first three years of primary school was in Kinyarwanda, I heard one parent remark: ibyo binyarwanda byanyu bizatugeza he? Loosely: where will your Kinyarwanda take us (in the world)? The policy was changed and now instruction in all classes is in English or French. However, many language education experts and linguists think the original policy was more appropriate. In some instances, people will find an excuse not to speak Kinyarwanda, or when they do, mix it with words from other languages even when speaking to Rwandans who do not understand those languages. The usual plea is that they cannot find the appropriate Kinyarwanda word or that it has limited vocabulary, not enough to express their thoughts adequately. All they are really saying is that they are lazy and ignorant. They are poor, not the language. Sometimes, though, you can’t blame them. What Kinyarwanda are they going to speak when all they hear is a combination of so many varieties and mixtures that sound like a kind of creole. And the schools don’t help much either. They do not teach Kinyarwanda as a language for daily communication. It is more a scientific, linguistic study of its structure. But that is a subject for another day. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not against speaking foreign languages. I cannot be when I have spent a large part of my life teaching one of them and the best that has been thought and written in it. And my weekly ramblings in this paper are in it. It is only that it should not be at the expense of our mother tongue. There is space and time for all of them. Sometimes one despairs, though, that we are losing it. But the couple I met at the clinic, and I am sure there are others, restores hope and faith that all is not lost. We can do with many more, in fact all of us, and get our children to speak Kinyarwanda (and other languages, of course). How are we going to say we are proudly Rwandan, something I hear a lot, when we cannot even speak our own tongue? Where is our agaciro when it comes to language?