Reference > Pronunciation > Letters


The following table shows how different vowels and consonants are pronounced.

Letters Pronunciation Example
Vowels (inyajwi)
a broad as in 'far' amata a-ma-ta >
e long like 'a' in 'hay' or short like 'e' in 'bet' ejo ay-joh >
i long like 'ee' in 'bee' or short like 'i' in 'bit' igiti ee-ji-tee >
o long like 'o' in 'tone' or short like 'o' in 'lot' amahoro a-ma-haw-ro >
u like 'oo' in 'food' umuntu oo-moon-hoo >
Consonants (ingombajwi)
d, f, g, h, k, m, n, p, s, t, v, w pronounced the same as in English  
b softer than in English with the lips barely touching ibibabi i-bi-ba-bi >
c like 'ch' in 'church' icupa i-choo-pah >
j soft like 'z' in 'azure' ijuru i-joo-roo >
l almost like 'r' leta lay-tah >
r as in English but with slight trill sound amarira a-ma-ree-rah >
y like 'y' in 'you' and never a vowel like 'sky' ikiyiko ee-chee-yee-koh >
z like 'z' in 'zone' izuba ee-zoo-bah >
Consonant combinations (ibihekane)
bw as 'bg' (even written 'bg' in some older books) ubwoba oob-go-bah >
jy hard 'j' like in 'jam' kujya koo-jah >
mp as 'mh' impanga eem-hang-gah >
nn as if there was a slight 'i' between them ubuvunnyi oo-boo-voo-n-in-yee >
nk as 'ngh' inka eeng-ha >
nt as 'nh' umuntu oo-moon-hoo >
rw as if there were a 'g' between them u Rwanda oor-gwan-dah >
ry as 'rdj' or 'dy' umuryango oo-moord-jang-goh >
sw as if there was a slight 'k' between them umuswa oo-moos-kwa >
tw as if there was a slight 'g' between them ugutwi oo-goot-gwi >

Regional variation

  • ge and gi are pronounced hard by people living near to the DRC and Burundi, but soft by people from central Rwanda, e.g. tugende sounds like too-jen-day > in Kigali
  • ke and ki can be hard or soft. People from Kigali usually pronounce it as chee-ga-ree >. The exception to this rule is when a ke is a result of a contraction of ka+i. For example kenshi is always pronounced with a hard k.