Prominent linguist, Professor Geoffrey Rugege, during the launch of the Comprehensive Kinyarwanda-English Dictionary by Fountain Publishers Rwanda Ltd, announced that, today, approximately 30 million people speak Kinyarwanda.
Professor Rugege, who is the author of the dictionary, taught English and Linguistics for close to three decades in American Universities and is currently serving as an Executive Director of the Rwanda National Council.
The book launched by Education Minister Hon Dr. Murigande on October 2, was graced by other dignitaries including his Ugandan counterpart Honorable Mirembe Bitamazire, Uganda’s Ambassador to Rwanda, His Excellency Kabonero, Deputy President of the Supreme Court, Professor Sam Rugege, Professor Laurent Nkusi, Deputy Rector INATEC, Mr. James Tumusime ,Fountain Publishers
Founder/Managing Director and Dr. Theogene Rutagwenda, the Director General of Rwanda Livestock Development Agency and chairman of National University of Rwanda Governing Council.
Dr. Murigande paid glowing tribute to Prof. Rugege for writing a dictionary that will be of great help to many people, but particularly to Rwandan teachers and students.
He noted that in the context of the recent policy of using English as a language of instruction in Rwanda, the dictionary will be of great benefit. The minister encouraged more Rwandans to write books as a way of promoting the reading culture, noting that although Rugege was born and lived outside Rwanda, his research interest in his culture and language was a mark of patriotism to be emulated. He pledged government assistance to local writers.
Personally, I was most intrigued by the scholar’s confirmation of my untested hypothesis that over 20 million people in the region, Uganda, DR Congo, and Tanzania speak Kinyarwanda or its variants /dialects. Ten years ago, I asked a don in the Africa Department of the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), why they didn’t teach Kinyarwanda language spoken by many people in the Great Lakes region, yet they taught Kiswahili, Hausa, Zulu, Amharic and other African Languages.
I was informed that the criteria for including a language in their programmes included consideration of the size of `population of speakers of the language and challenged me to show them a publication that supported my claim of so many Kinyarwanda phones. My hypothesis included Kirundi language which is very close to Kinyarwanda.
BBC and VOA which recognized the close relationship between the languages and have run successful Kinyarwanda and Kirundi programmes. Some time back Makerere University scholars introduced a course and research in Runyakitara.
This was in recognition of the similarities between Runyankole, Rukiga, Rutoro and Runyoro. Professor Rugege’s project which includes a Kinyarwanda-English- Kiswahili web -dictionary could attempt a study of the variants of Kinyarwanda in the region.
While professor Rugege’s children provided his inspiration to research and write the bilingual dictionary, his efforts will certainly inspire many parents in Rwanda and Diaspora to encourage to learn and be proud of their mother tongue. I found the English to Kinyarwanda part of the dictionary user friendly and will definitively benefit learners especially beginners and other with scantly knowledge Kinyarwanda like my children born in Diaspora.
The bilingual dictionary is certainly an asset not only for academic purposes but as Rugege states in the preface “more than 30 million people will probably need to use it at a certain time in their lives, at work, while traveling, and carrying out research”. It seems the first edition of the dictionary is a promising start for more research by the linguist as he promises to address specific traits of Kinyarwanda for the benefit of people not familiar with the language namely; the importance of duration or length of vowel, tonality and the inflectional variations of the word.
Looking at the tittles by Fountain publishers, one noticse a keen interest in publishing about Rwanda and could be training for Rwandan writers and publishers. In the last three years the firm has published 13 tittles of Kinyarwada readers and 33 English readers authored by Rwandans.
This is evidence of the firm’s commitment to cultivate culture of reading and “give a voice to the nation’s thinkers, scholars, researchers and artists by publishing their works”.
Equally useful to Rwanda readers and educational system, Fountain Publishers has invested in research and publication of books that are relevant to Rwanda notably; Social Studies for Rwanda Primary Schools and Geography of Rwanda.
These texts give the reader a real picture of Rwanda from the perspectives of History, Geography, Economics and Civics. Teachers and other academics are called to rise to the occasion for as Simon Peter Hitiyise, Manager Fountain Publishers, doors are open to budding writers.