Languages of Cameroon
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Cameroon is home to nearly 250 languages. These include 55 Afro-Asiatic languages, two Nilo-Saharan languages, 4 Ubangian languages, and 169 Niger–Congo languages. This latter group is divided into one Senegambian language (Fulfulde), 28 Adamawa languages, and 142 Benue–Congo languages (130 of which are Bantu languages). French and English are official languages, a heritage of Cameroon's colonial past as a colony of both France and the United Kingdom from 1916 to 1960. Eight out of the ten regions of Cameroon are primarily francophone, representing 83% of the country's population and 2 are anglophone, representing 17% of the country's population. The anglophone proportion of the country is in constant regression, having decreased from 21% in 1976 to 20% in 1987 and to 17% in 2005, and is estimated at 16% in 2015 (whose 4th census should take place in 2015).
The nation strives toward bilingualism, but in reality, very few Cameroonians speak both French and English, and many speak neither. The government has established several bilingual schools in an effort to teach both languages more evenly. Cameroon is a member of both the Commonwealth of Nations and La Francophonie. German, the country's official language during the German colonial period until World War I, has nowadays almost entirely made room for its two successors. However, as a foreign language subject German still enjoys huge popularity among pupils and students, with 300,000 people learning or speaking German in Cameroon in 2010. Today, Cameroon belongs to the African countries with the highest number of people with knowledge of German.
Most people in the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest provinces speak Cameroonian Pidgin English as a lingua franca. Fulfulde serves the same function in the north, and Ewondo in much of the Center, South, and East provinces. Camfranglais (or Frananglais) is a relatively new pidgin communication form emerging in urban areas and other locations where Anglophone and Francophone Cameroonians meet and interact. Popular singers have used the hybrid language and added to its popularity.
There is little literature, radio, or television programming in native Cameroonian languages. Nevertheless, a large number of Cameroonian languages have alphabets or other writing systems, many developed by the Christian missionary group SIL International, who have translated the Bible, Christian hymns, and other materials. The General Alphabet of Cameroon Languages was developed in the late 1970s as an orthographic system for all Cameroonian languages.
Literacy in French for individuals of age 12 and above rose from 41.3% to 57.6% between 1987 and 2005 while that of English rose from 13.4% to 25.3%. The global proportion of individuals literate in official languages has thus markedly increased between 1987 and 2005, rising from 53.3% to 71.2%.
In 2005, the probability to be literate in French while being anglophone was 0.46 while that of being literate in English while being francophone was 0.20, resulting from the predominant status of the French language in Cameroon as a whole.
Some of the common languages native to Cameroon include:
- Chadian Arabic
Mousgoum, Massa, Kotoko, and Mousseye are spoken on the Logone River in the Far North.
- Estimation of number of French speakers worldwide., francophonie.org
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- Rosendal, Tove. 2008. "Multilingual Cameroon: Policy, Practice, Problems and Solutions." University of Gothenburg, Africana Informal Series, No. 7