Learning Ugandan languages is certainly a good idea. Of course no one will expect you to be fluent like the natives but a bit of learning will take you places. Even for starters, call it; breaking the ice - if you may wish, it sets the mood and will put more relaxation and fun in whatever you will be doing in Uganda.
Uganda is a multilingual country with over forty indigenous languages that are spread across. Some of the common ones are; Luganda, Runyankole, Rukiga, Rutoro, Lusoga, Ateso, Acholi, Langi ... - the list is long, plus Swahili which is regionally spoken and the second official language after English.
On this page, I will explain why and whether you should set aside some time to learn a bit of a Ugandan language. I will also review some of the language schools and private teachers you will find here.
Quite a good number of Ugandans speak English (of course being the first international language which is also the mode of teaching in schools), which should make life easier if you speak English too. Have you heard about Ugandan English? Curious?!
But believe me, life will be so much easier if you speak some local language. You will quite easily touch base with the local Ugandans in the market, in the village, in the small towns or even your neighbours.
Roll your sleeves and let's get started ... Check out these survival expressions I have put together for you here.
... Don't worry about making sloppy pronunciations, keep trying. You will be amazed at how happy and willing the locals will guide you through your beginners. And not just for the language, you will certainly pick up a lot about Ugandan culture along the way.
I taught luganda (which is spoken in the central region and largely in Kampala) for nearly 10 years - oh! how I wish I could still do this... and all I can say is; simply relax, our languages are fairly easy to learn and very expressional and practical in nature.
From experience, they are pretty simpler to grasp than English, French or Spanish. Perhaps similar to German in phonetic build up and syllable sounds.
You will find Ugandans generally friendly and the fact that you make an attempt to speak their language, many will be much more willing to help. You will see these surprised faces quite a lot which will quickly flash into those big welcoming Ugandan smiles.
Believe you, me, you will also get a much better service when they know you speak their language. A few Ugandan survival phrases can be pretty handy to get you round the restaurant, the market and on the bus.
... Save for which could be the icing on the cake - the more reason you should perhaps learn Ugandan languages; you will likely save a great deal of money. Whether it's haggling with the vendors in the market or asking for a deal in a store, if you can try and get your point across, you will certainly knock of a few shillings from the asking price.
Its is fair to say that majority of Ugandan will be fluent in their local languages but not many will know about the language; the grammatical explanation and perhaps putting translation into proper context with out losing meaning along the way.
It can therefore be frustrating trying to find a good language trainer/teacher but there are a few places you can go to and get your money's worth. Otherwise, a friend, a work colleague can be helpful with building on your phrases - trouble is; this approach will always start with the funny ones - but who cares if you can carefully build on this.
Initially I will competently talk about language schools in Kampala as I do further research and reviews on what you can find in the other towns and cities. If you intend to spend some time in Kampala, then you could book some lessons before you travel up country.
There are quite a few schools here I would recommend. Some teach only local Ugandan languages, while others teach English and French (which are the 2 common foreign ones) and a few local languages. Some like the program at Makerere University teach several languages.
The School of Languages, Literature and Communication at Makerere University is the fast I would recommend. Not just playing it safe here but you will be sure to find help for several Ugandan languages. Try them, they might be costly - of course being the university, but they will give you good quality service.
A few other language schools you could look out for are; City Language Center, Difra language Services, KIM Communication Services and Alliance Francaise de Kampala (particularly if you want to polish your French).
You will also find private tutor/trainers/teachers who will work with you on a one to one and at your comfort; they will even come to your home - which can be quite flexible and handy depending on your schedule.
Most of these will charge less than the schools because they don't have overhead costs and particularly also if you are looking for less structured classes or you need to learn any of the Ugandan languages on a budget - private trainer/ teacher is the way to go.
Go on and learn - you can do it!
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