Learning Kinyarwanda, Seeing the Beauty of Rwanda

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My name is Bobby Briggs, a lawyer. I was born in Missouri, but moved all over the USA when I was young.  I went to college in Pennsylvania and just finished law school in New York. Now, New York City is what I call home.


The not so typical American

The not so typical American


In college, I really wanted to study abroad. My program director told me about a split program on Conflict Resolution in Rwanda and Uganda at the School for International Training (SIT). I had never been to Rwanda before, but I thought it might be an interesting experience.

Little did I know how much I would love it. Before going to Rwanda, you mostly hear about the genocide. I had seen a lot of movies, and read a few books. But they all centered around the genocide.

It wasn’t until I actually showed up in the country that I began to realize how wonderful it is. It was very different than the USA. The people were so kind and caring. The landscape was so beautiful. Kigali was well developed and so clean. None fit the traditional stereotype circulating in the US.


First Encounter with the Language ‘Kinyarwanda’

When I was in Rwanda, I lived in Nyamirambo. I lived with a host family, the Ngarambes. They took me in as one of their own, and I really felt like I was a part of the family. We grew very close. I still keep in close contact with them now.

I love Nyamirambo because people are always out doing something. Even late at night, people are walking around or going to restaurants.

I love Kinyarwanda. It is so different than most other African languages. Most African countries have hundreds of native languages, but Rwanda has one. I love the fact that no matter where I go in Rwanda, I can speak to people in Kinyarwanda. It is a really fun language to learn as well, although I find the pronunciations to be almost impossible sometimes!

Now that I am back in New York, it is hard for me to practice Kinyarwanda. I am hoping to find a teacher so I can keep learning the language.


My First Song in Kinyarwanda

I first started singing in Kinyarwanda in 2010, when I was first learning the language. I was writing Njyewe Nawe to help me learn. I never intended for it to be a public song that would be played on the radio. I just really like to write songs, and writing one in Kinyarwanda was really fun.



When I would travel around the country, sometimes I would play it for people. They seemed to really love it. Four years later, after I finished law school, I decided to produce the song and release it. Now, people in Rwanda could listen. It was my way of showing appreciation for the country and language.

My favorite phrase is “ndi munini”, which means “I’m fat.” That’s what I would say when I got on the taxis. I would always have to squeeze next to someone, and I’m a little bigger than the average Rwandan.

People would always laugh at that one.  Rwandans like to laugh. Sometime people would say “cyaaannneee” back to me, which meant, “Yes, very!”


The Future

It’s hard to know what is going to happen in the future. Right now, I work as a lawyer. I want to keep doing that. But I still love music, and I want to keep pursuing that as well. Recently, I released a new song with DJ Pius from Two4Real called “Ni Wowe Nshaka.” I have another song coming out in a couple months called “Ku Mutima.”  


I hope people like them!


Rwanda is a hard place to describe. It is so beautiful and the people are so kind. Those who still associate Rwanda only with genocide should visit the country for themselves. A person really needs to visit to fully understand how well Rwanda is doing.

Of course, the genocide should never be forgotten, but it is amazing to see how the  Rwandan people are healing, forgiving and moving forward together. I’m just happy I get to be friends with a lot of them.


Bobby Ngarambe and his passion, the language 'Kinyarwanda'

Bobby Ngarambe and his passion, the language ‘Kinyarwanda’



Photo credits – igihe.com