1. Official and foreign languages
Languages at school
2. Domestic languages
The official language as a language of intercommunication
Popular variants of official languages
Birth of new varieties
our society, when we talk about bilingual or trilingual individuals, we are simplifying a
reality that incorporates a wide range of uses of the first language (L1), second language
(L2) and foreign languages (FL). (1)
For example, let
us consider the daily presence in the mass media and information technology of other
languages, referred to, thus far, as foreign, to indicate that they are not of our
medium. Or the plurilingual situation of schools, where children who habitually live with
both Catalan and Spanish share their classroom with others who use languages such as
Arabic, Tagal, Urdu, Chinese and a number of European and African languages at home.
Thus, the terms
first, second and foreign language must be understood in their widest sense so that they
include the description of the linguistic knowledge of the speakers of a specific
community in which a number of languages coexist.
For many African
peoples, the fact of living with different languages since childhood is a normal
situation. A very specific case of this type of plurilingual society is the one that we
shall now present. I had the opportunity to work in this society for two years (2000
2001) as a Spanish teacher at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Yaoundé (a training
school for future secondary-school teachers).
located above the Equator on the west coast of Africa, representing what many have termed
"Little Africa", due to the variety of its ethnic groups, cultures, geography
and languages. In Yaounde, the capital, every neighbourhood and every street is a true
example of this variety.
In the Mvog Ada
neighbourhood, people greet each other in Ewondo or Bulu, whilst in Chinga they do so in
Bamileké. In Briquetterie, on the other hand, people usually speak in Fulfulde. Taxi
drivers can also speak French and English the countrys two official languages
and, if they recognise that you are from Spain, they can also greet you in Spanish.
Here, there are restaurants called Paloma Blanca and Paquita, and the bar
nearest the football stadium is called Camp Nou.
Thus, all of these
languages and more appear during the everyday life of many Cameroonians to varying
degrees, both in terms of the frequency of their use and of the social situations in which
they can be used. We shall now take a look at these languages and the most common ways in
which they are used.
1. Official and foreign languages
1. 1. Official languages
language of the vast majority of African states is still the language of the colonising
country, although there is a dominant national language in some cases. The indigenous
tongues of the territory delimited as a nation are considered to be national languages, as
opposed to the official languages (French and English), imposed by the Constitution. (2)
The authority of
this language over others, be it for political, economic, demographic or cultural reasons,
comes down to its use as a language of intercommunication between the countrys
different groups, who often speak to one another using very different languages. In some cases, this national language has official recognition
(Sango in Central Africa, for example), whereas in others, it does not (Wolof in Senegal). (3) In countries such as Cameroon, it is
unlikely that any of the native languages will appear as the dominant one, simply because
there are so many.