U.S. University set to offer a course in Kinyarwanda

Indiana University (IU) in the U.S. will begin providing a course in Kinyarwanda next month, making it the 8th African language that the university teaches under its African Studies Program.

Ambassador of Rwanda to the United States, Mathilde Mukantabana suggests the university’s move to introduce Kinyarwanda as a course is a consequence of the IU’s long-term commitment to Rwanda and an opportunity for Americans to learn the language.

Elementary Kinyarwanda classes will begin next month as part of the African Studies Program at IU’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies.

“Looking for a language course? Starting Fall 2019, Kinyarwanda will become the eight African language offered at IU! Kinyarwanda is the national language of Rwanda and is also spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo and southern Uganda,” a brochure advertising the course reads.

The brochure also adds that Kinyarwanda’s introduction as a course is component of the long-standing participation of the university in Rwanda.

“IU has longstanding connections with people and institutions in Rwanda through such award-winning programmes as ‘Books and Beyond’”. Under the ‘Books and Beyond’ programme, students from IU travel to Rwanda in summer not only to promote literacy but also gain travel experience.

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“The two main aims are to provide high quality reading materials for school children in Rwanda and foster critical thinking skills….,” IU says in part.

“The decision for Indiana University to start offering Kinyarwanda as a course this fall is as a result of the service learning projects that Indiana University students have had in Rwanda in the last 10 years in Kinigi, Rwanda through Indiana books and beyond Initiative,” Amb. Mukantabana told journalists.

While IU’s focus in Rwanda was on literacy, Ambassador Mukantabana claims more varsity departments have established interest in building relationships with Rwanda over the past 10 years.

According to the Ambassador, medical doctors and nurses were part of these annual visits and screenings for young children in Kinigi, Rwanda.

“As a result of that success, Indiana University made a decision to introduce Kinyarwanda as a course this fall 2019 to promote Rwanda’s unique language, culture and values. It is a great opportunity for Indiana students and business people that plan to invest and visit Rwanda to learn the language,” Mukantabana said.

“The ultimate goal is to teach ENL teachers among Indiana primary and secondary schools to eventually teach Kinyarwanda as one of the main languages,” she said. According to IU’s website, the education institution teaches on average more than 70 foreign languages a year, the most foreign languages taught by any university in the U.S.

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The college is also renowned for many ancient and distinctive languages, with several of the top programs in the most frequently studied languages, Spanish and French.

“Through the offering of Kinyarwanda, the African Studies Program hopes to support student engagement in Rwanda through study and service abroad, as well as faculty research,” said Tavy Aherne, associate director of the African Studies Program in IU’s School of Global and International Studies.

Aherne said that one of the biggest immigrant or refugee communities in Indiana now includes Rwandan and DRC speakers from Kinyarwanda. “We see potential for supporting heritage speakers in Indiana, as well as offering this language to students interested in education, international studies, business, public and environmental affairs and other areas,” Aherne said.

An earlier remark said the African Studies Program plans to give accelerated Kinyarwanda as soon as spring 2019, with suggestions starting in the fall of 2019 to teach beginning and intermediate Kinyarwanda.

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“With the addition of Kinyarwanda, IU will regularly support the teaching of eight African languages,” Aherne added.

Other generally available African languages at IU include Akan / Twi, Bamana, Kiswahili, Wolof, Yoruba, Zulu and Arabic. Kiswahili is also taught during the summer sessions as an intensive course.

The U.S. Rwandan Community welcomed the IU’s choice to teach Kinyarwanda, stating that the course will go a long way in placing Kinyarwanda on the worldwide map.

“The decision for Indiana University to introduce Kinyarwanda is a great initiative and opportunity for students at Indiana University to learn the unique culture, values and language. Rwanda has become a global player today and will help American visitors to learn Kinyarwanda.”

“In addition, student’s service learning projects through books and beyond in Kinigi, Rwanda for the last 10 years have motivated other Indiana University programs to build relationships with the University of Rwanda and Rwanda at large.

The future is bright!” the United States Rwandan Community Abroad (USRCA) said.

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