Can Native Languages contribute to development?

Every year, on 21st of February, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) celebrates the International Day of Mother tongues. This year, at the international level, the theme put forward is: “The use of technology for multilingual education”. In his speech, the Minister in charge of Youth and cultural affairs, Ambassador Ezechiel NIBIGIRA, explained that Burundi has opted for a rather different central theme: “Kirundi as the cradle of knowledge leading all Burundians to development”.

He maintained that this day comes at the right time for different reasons. Here are some of them: 

  • First, our beloved mother is in danger and it is high time we rescued Kirundi from the threat of other languages or the danger of misuse. In addition to this, there are some people who display lack of respect for this our language and who are no longer able to use it correctly and wisely.
  • Second, this event comes as a reminder for Burundians, that are sitting on a treasure, our very mother tongue, Kirundi. In fact, indicated the ambassador, we cannot help realizing how rich we are with the possibility of speaking the language in the whole country. This is somehow unique, considering that, in many countries, entering another province means changing the language.

It is important to understand the socioeconomic value of mastering national languages. In terms of education for instance, it is hard to learn the history of Burundi, mathematics or geography in a language that you only master at 30%, and expect to harvest enough knowledge. In view of this, one may ask some questions about the value, the place and the use of Kirundi at the moment. In some countries, good understanding of the national language is a condition to acquire nationality or to be accepted in some job positions. Isn’t it logical to make Kirundi a condition for hiring employees rather than requiring the certificates of foreign languages? Food for thought. In conclusion, Ambassador Ezechiel expressed his support and encouragement for all who work tirelessly to make Kirundi a living and useful language in the life of the country.

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