What is the reason for French being the official language in Burkina Faso?

Travel Destinations

By Kristy Tolley

Burkina Faso’s Official Language

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country located in West Africa. The country has a rich cultural heritage, with over 60 ethnic groups and a diversity of languages. However, the official language of Burkina Faso is French, a legacy of the country’s colonial past. French remains the language of government, education, and business, making it an essential language to know for those living and working in Burkina Faso.

Historical Background: French Colonialism

Burkina Faso was formerly known as Upper Volta and was under French colonial rule from 1895 to 1960. During this time, French became the language of administration, education, and trade. The French administration established a system of colonial education that taught French and excluded local languages. This system created a divide between those who spoke French and those who did not, leading to a linguistic hierarchy that favored French speakers. The legacy of French colonialism is still visible today in Burkina Faso, with French remaining the dominant language of government and education.

French Influence on Burkina Faso’s Education

French is the language of instruction in Burkina Faso’s schools from primary to university level. This means that students must learn French to access education and have opportunities for higher education and professional careers. However, this has created a language barrier for those who speak local languages, as they are not able to access education in their mother tongue. The government recognizes the importance of multilingual education and has started to introduce local languages into the curriculum. However, this process is slow, and French remains the dominant language in education.

French Influence on Burkina Faso’s Government

French is the language of government in Burkina Faso, and all official documents and communications are in French. This means that those who do not speak French are at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing government services and participating in the political process. This has led to calls for more language diversity in government and for greater recognition of local languages.

The use of French as the official language of Burkina Faso is enshrined in the country’s constitution. The constitution recognizes French as the language of administration, education, and business, and it is the only language that has official status. This legal framework has made it difficult to promote language diversity and has contributed to the dominance of French in Burkina Faso.

Language Policy: The Role of Multilingualism

The government of Burkina Faso recognizes the importance of multilingualism and has started to promote the use of local languages in education and administration. The country has adopted a language policy that aims to promote multilingualism and recognize the value of local languages. However, this policy has not been fully implemented, and French remains the dominant language in most areas of life.

French and the Economy: Impacts on Trade and Business

French is the language of business in Burkina Faso, and those who do not speak French may struggle to access economic opportunities. The dominance of French in the economy has led to calls for greater language diversity and recognition of local languages in business. However, French remains the language of choice for many businesses operating in Burkina Faso.

French and International Relations: Diplomatic Benefits

French is an important language in international diplomacy, and Burkina Faso’s use of French has helped it to maintain strong ties with France and other Francophone countries. Being able to speak French has also given Burkina Faso access to international organizations such as the United Nations and the African Union.

Challenges of French Dominance: Linguistic Diversity

The dominance of French in Burkina Faso has created a divide between French-speaking elites and those who do not speak French. This has led to a loss of linguistic diversity and has contributed to the marginalization of local languages and cultures. Critics argue that the focus on French has come at the expense of local languages and cultures, leading to a loss of identity and heritage.

Prospects for Change: Calls for Language Reform

There are calls for language reform in Burkina Faso, with many advocating for more recognition of local languages and greater language diversity. The government has started to introduce local languages into the education system and has taken steps to promote multilingualism. However, there is still a long way to go in terms of promoting language diversity and recognizing the value of local languages.

Conclusion: French as a Double-Edged Sword

French has played an important role in Burkina Faso’s history and has helped to maintain strong ties with France and other Francophone countries. However, the dominance of French has also had negative impacts on linguistic diversity and has contributed to the marginalization of local languages and cultures. The government of Burkina Faso recognizes the importance of language diversity and multilingualism, but there is still a long way to go in terms of promoting these values and recognizing the value of local languages.

References: Further Reading

  • "Burkina Faso: Language Policy and Education" by Mamadou Cissé and Robert Kenedy
  • "Colonialism and Language Policy in Upper Volta" by Francis M. Higman
  • "Language, Education, and Development: Lessons from Burkina Faso" by Birgit Brock-Utne and Monica B. Brock-Utne.
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Kristy Tolley

Kristy Tolley, an accomplished editor at TravelAsker, boasts a rich background in travel content creation. Before TravelAsker, she led editorial efforts at Red Ventures Puerto Rico, shaping content for Platea English. Kristy's extensive two-decade career spans writing and editing travel topics, from destinations to road trips. Her passion for travel and storytelling inspire readers to embark on their own journeys.

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