Cameroon, a West African country, is often known as “Africa in miniature” due to the incredible cultural and geological diversity of the country. The country is home to over 1738 different linguistic groups. The languages of Cameroon are discussed below.
Official Languages Of Cameroon
French And English
Between 1916 and 1960, Cameroon served as the colony of both the United Kingdom and France. Though the nation is now independent, the legacy of the colonial past of Cameroon is visible in its selection of the official languages. French and English are the official languages of Cameroon. Eight out of the ten regions of the nation, housing 83% of the population of Cameroon, are francophones. The remaining two regions, representing 17% of Cameroon’s population are mainly anglophones. However, the proportion of anglophones in the country is gradually decreasing.
Cameroon is a member of both the La Francophonie as well as the Commonwealth of Nations. The Government of Cameroon has set up several bilingual schools in the country to encourage the learning of both the official languages of Cameroon. However, very few Cameroonians actually speak the two languages, and some even do not speak either of the languages.
German served as the official language of Cameroon during the German colonial rule in the country till World War I. After the war, it was gradually overpowered by the other two European languages and soon lost its status as the official language of Cameroon. However, the German language is still a popular language among the students and has about 300,000 speakers and learners in the country. In fact, Cameroon has the largest number of German speakers among the countries of Africa.
National Languages Of Cameroon
The incredible linguistic diversity of Cameroon is easily visible in its huge wealth of national languages. 55 Afro-Asiatic languages, 169 Niger-Congo languages, 4 Ubangian languages, and 2 Nilo-Saharan languages are spoken in Cameroon. The Niger-Congo languages spoken here can be further classified and includes 140 Benue-Congo languages, 28 Adamawa languages, and one Senegambian language.
A large number of the native Cameroon languages have alphabets and writing systems but are hardly represented in radio, television programs, and literary work. An orthographic system for all Cameroon languages was established in the 1970’s. It is known as the General Alphabet of Cameroon.
Lingua Franca In Cameroon
Cameroonian Pidgin English is the lingua franca in the country’s Northwest and Southwest provinces. In the north, Fulfulde plays the same role. The lingua franca in the East, South, and Center provinces of Cameroon is Ewondo. Camfranglais is a hybrid of the English and French languages and is prevalent in the locations where French-speaking and English-speaking Cameroonians meet.
Sign Languages In Cameroon
The American Sign Language that was introduced in Cameroon by the deaf missionary, Andrew Foster, serves as the sign language in Cameroon.