The Atlas Linguistique du Cameroun (1963)
mentions 247 national languages: Bantu-type in the southern part of the country; and
AdamauaUbangui type in the north, although both belong to the same family
(NigerKordofanian according to Greenbergs classification, 1963) [see map]. (4)
NigerKordofanian family according to Greenbergs classification (1963)
language is dominant over the others, and it is therefore unlikely that any one of them
will be given official status. Thus, since the unification of the national territory in
1961, the Cameroonian government has adopted French and English as the official languages,
present in the Civil Service, mass media and at school.
language policy considers English-French bilingualism to be advantageous for its
inhabitants, and civil service documents are drafted in both languages. However, the
reality is that English is only used in 2 of the countrys 10 provinces (north-west
and south-west), whilst French is the language of intercommunication par excellence for
75% of the population.
1. 2. Languages at school
At school, one of
the two languages is chosen as the vehicular language from pre-school teaching and the
other is introduced into teaching during primary education.
None of the
languages that we have termed national are taught at school, despite the fact that,
since the 1970s, many public and private universities have conducted numerous studies
contributing to the knowledge of these languages , and the Ministry of Education now
recommends their introduction into the education system. (5) However, only in certain areas in the
north of the country is a national language (Fulfulde) used as the vehicular language at
In addition, a
third language is introduced into teaching at secondary level. We shall term this foreign
language, (6) referring to a third or fourth acquired
language that is not of the learners medium.
obtained her independence in 1960, she retained the option of Spanish and German as
foreign languages during the first two courses of the baccalaureate course, in line with
the educational system of the ex-coloniser, France. Hence, the countrys six
university faculties currently have a Spanish or German Language Section in their Foreign
Language Departments, and the Université de Yaoundé also offers the option of learning
The number of
students of Spanish in 1991 in both secondary (85,000) and higher education (700), (7) is a very significant reflection of the
interest in learning this language.
So, how are these
languages taught at school? In the case of Spanish, textbooks are mainly 1970s French
manuals, and the contents, aims and learning assessments have scarcely changed since 1978. (8)
and learning at school is based mainly on the written language and focuses on learning
grammatical structures. This means that assessments almost always consist of writing a
composition such as the one that follows, written by a Cameroonian teacher as an example
for his Spanish students:
haberte escrito hace largo rato. ¿Cómo te llevas ahora? Mi familia y yo estamos buenos
de salud. Después de mis buenos resultados en el año escolar 1997 - 1998, mis padres
decidieron felicitarme y me propusieron ir a visitar mi tío paterno que vive en Yaounde.
Como lo ves
Jorge mío, lo he pasado bomba. De aquí en adelante proporcionaré buenos resultados para
merecer dichosas vacaciones.