The official languages of Rwanda are Kinyarwanda (a Bantu language) and French. Swahili is also used in commercial dealings with neighbouring countries. English is increasingly being used for business, especially in urban areas.

 Kinyarwanda is closely related to Kirundi, which is the language spoken in Burundi. In both languages, a slight difference in the length and tone of vowels can affect the meaning of a word. Nouns are grouped into 20 classes, indicated by different prefixes. There are some regional dialects, and certain differences between the dialects spoken by the Hutus and the Tutsis, but, in general, most Rwandans can understand each other.

Some of the people who left Rwanda in 1959 and have recently returned to the country do not speak Kinyarwanda. Those who lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo usually speak Swahili, and those from Uganda usually speak English.

 Greetings are an essential part of Rwandan social life. In rural areas, one is expected to greet everyone who passes. In urban areas, this is not possible, but it is considered rude not to greet all friends and acquaintances. Formal greetings contain wishes such as "May you have many cows," or "May you have children." Some people use special Christian greetings such as "May Jesus be praised."

 Visiting relatives and friends is an important activity in Rwanda. People who do not regularly visit their relatives and friends are considered anti-social. On special occasions, visitors bring gifts. When a visitor arrives, the host will usually offer beer to drink, as a sign of hospitality and friendship. The guest always accepts; to refuse the offer would be a sign of disrespect.

  English Kinyarwanda
  Yes   Yego
  No   Oya
  Please   Mubisholoye
  Thank you   Marakoze
  Hello   Muraho
  Good morning   Mwaramutse
  Good night   Ijoro ryiza
  Goodbye   Mwirirwe or Muramukye
  Woman   Umugore
  Man   Umugabo 
  Girl   Umukobwa
  Boy   Umuhungu

  Did you know?
Some common Rwandan proverbs include "A rapid stream wears itself out," "As a tree leans, so it falls," and "The witless appreciate each other."

  Did you know?
In some areas of Rwanda, Hutu minstrels used to travel from place to place. The minstrels gathered news and passed it on in the form of a song, performed to the accompaniment of a seven-stringed zither.