An Introduction to Burkina Faso - Part 1

January 20th, 2016

Burkina Faso (formally the Republic of Upper Volta) was renamed by President Thomas Sankara in 1984.

An Introduction to Burkina Faso - Part 1 | One Hour Translation

Burkina Faso (formally the Republic of Upper Volta) was renamed by President Thomas Sankara in 1984.

Burkina Faso is a West African country, landlocked by Mali in the north, Ghana and Togo in the South, Niger in the East, Côte d'Ivoire in the south-west and Benin in the south-east. It’s also ranked as one of the most illiterate and poorest countries in the world and, being such an impoverished country, thousands of farm workers migrate every year to Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire in search of paid labour.

Burkina Faso’s estimated population is almost 13 million people, with its inhabitants known as Burkinabè.

The Languages of Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is a multilingual country with an estimated 69 languages being spoken. The official language of Burkina Faso is French, and this is the principle language of the press, public services, and judicial, administrative and political institutions. French was introduced to Burkina Faso during the colonial period. Some of the indigenous languages include the Mossi language (Mossi: Mòoré); Ouagadougou, along with closely related Gurunsi languages; Mande languages including Dyula (also known as Jula or Dioula); Samo, Bobo, and Marka; the Fula language; the Gourmanché language and the Bissa language.

A country like Burkina Faso, that’s so multilingual, simply confirms that translators must be highly experienced and qualified in order to accurately translate text to conform to different cultures, languages and dialects that exist within the one country.

Major Religions and Ethnic Groups

The major religions of Burkina Faso are Muslim 50%, Christian 10% and indigenous beliefs 40%. The major ethnic groups are Mossi (more than 40%), Senufo, Mande, Lobi, Fulani and Bobo.

Greetings in Burkina Faso

  • A handshake with the right hand is the most common form of greeting when men greet men. For those men who are already friends, handshakes are often combined with a snap on the release;
  • The most common form of greeting between women is a handshake with the right hand;
  • When men and women greet each other, the most common greeting form is a handshake with the right hand. In addition, a nod of acknowledgement or a verbal greeting is also acceptable;
  • There’s usually a handshake accompanied by head taps on holidays: this means touching the sides of your head to another person’s head four times – two on each side. For lower class adults to show respect to upper class adults and for children to show respect to elders, we see a handshake with the right hand, with the left hand being supported by the right elbow.

The Communication Style of the Burkinabe People

The Burkinabe people are very indirect communicators: if someone doesn’t want answer a question or is unhappy with what’s being said, they’ll simply say uh-hum… with an awkward silence and no further communication to follow.

There’s often a third-party system when it comes to conflict resolution and problem solving. As an example, if two people are arguing, one may choose a third person who knows the other person well to ask forgiveness.

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