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CAMEROONIAN LANGUAGES

Cameroon is home to 230 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).

English and French are official languages, a heritage of Cameroon's colonial past as both a colony of the United Kingdom and France from 1916 to 1960. 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.

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.

Education for the deaf in Cameroon uses American Sign Language, introduced by the deaf American missionary Andrew Foster.

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.

Sultan Ibrahim Njoya developed the script for the Bamum language

Unlike most other African countries, Cameroon has no dominant or common national language. However, the urban youth has created a form of slang words camfranglais complex (mixture of French, English, vernacular phrases of Cameroon and even slang) that varies between cities. It is expressed in "Pidgin" a mixture of English and slang. As for traders, they often negotiate in Pidgin English (a form of Creole English) for over 50 years.

Some Native Languages

Some of the common dialects native to Cameroon include:

Abo: Their language is Bankon (The Bankon (or abaw, abo, bo) which is a Bantu language spoken by the population, Bankon, southwest of Cameroon, in the Littoral region), the number of speakers was estimated at 12,000 in 2001.

Afade: Afade is an Afro-Asiatic language spoken in eastern Nigeria and northwestern Cameroon.

Aghem: Aghem is a Grassfields Bantu language spoken in the Wum Central Sub-division in Menchum Division of the North West Region of Cameroon. The term Aghem refers to the speakers, the land and the language. The Aghem language is also called Wum or Yum.

Akoose: Akoose is a language spoken in South West (Kupe Muanenguba Division) and Littoral (Departement du Moungo) regions of Cameroon. A bantu language, like many bantu languages in coastal Cameroon, the root of most words is related to Lingala, Swahili.

Akum: Akum is a Jukunoid language of Cameroon and across the border in Nigeria.

Ambele: Ambele is a divergent, apparently Grassfields language of Cameroon.

Atong: Not to be confused with Atong language (Tibeto-Burman). Atong is a Grassfields language of Cameroon.

Fanji: The Fanji language, is the language of the Bafanji people in the Northwest Region of Cameroon. There are approximately 17,000 speakers. The language has a rich system of tonal morphology, including reduplication involving adjectives.

Bafaw-balong: Bafaw-Balong is a Bantu language of Cameroon. There are two divergent varieties, Fo’ (Bafaw, Bafo, Bafowu, Afo, Nho, Lefo’) and Long (Balong, Balon, Balung, Nlong, Valongi, Bayi, Bai), which are sometimes considered distinct languages.The Bafaw and Balong people are two of several who call themselves Ngoe as they share a legendary origin with speakers of the Ngoe languages, but their language is not part of that group.

Bafia: The Bafia language is a Bantu language spoken by 60,000 people in Cameroon according to 1991 figures. It is used in the Bafia subdivision of the Mbam and Inoubou Division in Center Province in southwestern Cameroon. There are two dialects, Kpa and Bape. People call their language Rikpa and themselves as Bekpak. It is written with the Latin alphabet.

Bafut: The Bafut language, Fut, is an Eastern Grassfields language of the Niger–Congo languages, and related to Bamum. Oral tradition traces dynastic origins to the Ndobo or Tikari areas. It is spoken by people of Bafut Subdivision, Tuba in the division of Mezam and in the division of Metchum in Northwest Province, Cameroon. The Bafut language was alphabetized by SIL International worker Joseph Mfonyam in 1982. Since then some literature has been translated into Bafut, most notably the New Testament in the year 2000.

Baka: Baka (also called Be-bayaga, Be-bayaka, and Bibaya de L’est) is a dialect cluster of Ubangian languages spoken by the Baka Pygmies of Cameroon and Gabon. The people are ethnically close to the Aka, the two together called the Mbenga (Bambenga), but the languages are not related apart from some vocabulary dealing with the forest economy, which suggests the Aka may have shifted to Bantu from a language like Baka about 1500 CE. Some 30% of Baka vocabulary is not Ubangian. Much of this concerns a specialized forest economy, such as words for edible plants, medicinal plants, and honey collecting, and has been posited as the remnant of an ancestral Pygmy language which has otherwise vanished. However, apart from some words shared with the Aka, there is no evidence for a wider linguistic affiliation with any of the other Pygmy peoples. It is unclear if three minor varieties are mutually intelligible with Baka proper. They are Gundi (Ngundi), Ganzi, and Massa (Limassa). Most Massa have shifted to Gundi, which is spoken by 9,000 people. Some sources add Ngombe as a fifth variety, but that may instead be a dialect of Bangandu.

Bakole: The Bakole (Bakolle, Kole) are an ethnic group of the Republic of Cameroon. They belong to the Sawa, or Cameroonian coastal peoples. The Bakole speak a language of the same name. The Bakole language is part of the Bantu group of the Niger–Congo language family. The language is at least partially intelligible with Mokpwe, the language of the Bakweri. Individuals who have attended school or lived in an urban centre usually speak Cameroonian Pidgin English or Standard English. In fact, growing numbers of Anglophone Cameroonians today grow up with Pidgin as their first tongue

Bakweri: The Bakweri people speak ‘’Bakweri’’ (or mòkpè), a Bantu language. The number of speakers in Cameroon was estimated at 32,000 in 1982. Cameroonian Pidgin and Duala are also widely used.The Bakweri speak Mokpwe, a tongue that is closely related to Bakole and Wumboko. Mokpwe is part of the family of Duala languages in the Bantu group of the Niger–Congo language family. Neighbouring peoples often utilise Mokpwe as a trade language, due largely to the spread of the tongue by early missionaries. This is particularly true among the Isubu, many of whom are bilingual in Duala or Mokpwe. In addition, individuals who have attended school or lived in an urban centre usually speak Pidgin English or Standard English. A growing number of the Bakweri today grow up with Pidgin as a more widely spoken language. The Bakweri also used a drum language to convey news from clan to clan, and they also utilized a horn language peculiar to them.

Balo: Balo is a Grassfields language of Cameroon. Alunfa is distinct, and perhaps should be considered a different language. Balo and Alunfa are poorly documented, and for a time had been considered Tivoid languages.

Bamali: The Bamali language, Chopechop, is a Grassfields language of Cameroon.

Bambalang: The Bambalang language, Mboyakum, is a Grassfields language of Cameroon.

Bamiléké: The Bamileke are a people of Central Africa from Cameroon (Western Region), in the region of Grassland where also live Bamun and Tikar close to them by their common ancestors, their surrounding social structures and languages. It is the largest ethnic group in the country. The Bamilekes used to speak a single language, the ‘’Bamileke’’, until their dismemberment in the mid-fourteenth century because of the death of their sovereign. Bamiléke born of the ‘’Bamileke-Bafoussam’’ and ‘’Bamoun’’. The Bamoun branched out into twenty sub-dialectal variants before being unified by Sultan Njoya in the early twentieth century. For its part, the Bamileke-Bafoussam continue to branch to give birth over the centuries, to tens of dialectal variants, themselves with sub-variants more or less negligible. The Bamileke-Bafoussam is the mother-tongue of the other Bamileke dialects (Bafang, Dschang, Bagangte, Bandjoun etc) except Bamoun.

Bamoun: The Bamouns are a people of Central Africa based in western Cameroon in the Grassland region where also lived Bamileke and Tikar close to them by their common ancestors, their surrounding social structures and languages. They live by craft, commerce and agriculture.Their language, Bamum, belongs to the group of semi-Bantu languages in the Niger-Congo family of languages. The number of speakers bamoun was estimated at 215,000 in 1982. The Bamouns are one of the few people in sub-Saharan Africa to have developed writing. This writing was invented by King Njoya in the early twentieth century. King Njoya built a school to encourage the use of the writing system. However, the arrival of the French sounded the end of the monarchy and writing Bamun which was replaced by the French language.

Bangandu: Bangandu (Bàngàndò) is a Gbaya language of Cameroon and Congo. Ngombe of the Central African Republic may be a dialect, though it has also been classified as one of the Baka languages.

Bassa: The Bassa are a Bantu people of Central Africa established in Cameroon, in the area between the cities of Douala and Yaounde, in the departments of Nyong-et-Kelle and Sanaga-Maritime. There are also the Bassa in the departments of the ocean, and Nkam Ntem. The Basaa language (Bassa) belongs to a group of Bantu languages. It is spoken by about 800,000 people (5% of Cameroon's population), around the town of Edea, between Douala and Yaounde and also small quantity in both the economic and political capitals. It has a similar phonetic and grammatical features common to many Bantu languages, such as nominal classes, the implosive “b” and system tones: high tone, low tone, low tone up, high-low, and medium tone. The language is written using the Latin alphabet adapted, including consonants, vowels and accents specific to Bantu languages. There is also a characteristic of the Bassa alphabet, which is not esoteric.

Beti: Beti is a language, or group of Bantu languages, spoken by the Beti-Pahuin people, who inhabit the rain forest regions of Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and São Tomé and Príncipe. The varieties, which are largely mutually intelligible and variously considered dialects or closely related languages, are:

  • Ewondo (Yaoundé), Fang, Bulu, Eton, Bebele, Bebil, Mengisa.

Bulu: The Bulu (pronounced "Boulou"in French) is an African language spoken mainly in Cameroon with 800,000 speakers, including 200,000 people as their mother tongue. Ebolowa and Sangmelima are the two main cities where they speak the Bulu. This language family, Beti language, is closely related to Ntumu, the ewondo and Fang of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The Bulu language was codified by the first Presbyterian missionaries who arrived in Cameroon. They are made in a language of instruction of the Protestant doctrine to the colonial era. This language has (French Bulu) a dictionary of which one of the authors is Eyinga Moses. The first novel written in Bulu is Nnanga Kon.

Douala: The Douala language (ba bwambo Duala in Douala) is spoken in Cameroon, it belongs to the group of Bantu languages. It is a tonal language. It has some dialects such as Pongo and Malimba. The Douala belongs to the Bantu family of languages ??and the group of sawabantu languages. Douala is one of the first languages ??to be written by missionaries in Cameroon, with a translation of the New Testament in 1862 by Alfred Saker. Over the years, Douala knows three main spellings, each under the influence of colonial rule or original missionaries: German, French and English.

Eton: Eton, or Ìtón, is a Bantu language spoken by the Eton people of Cameroon. The exact number of Eton speakers is unknown, although Ethnologue cites 52,000 speakers based on a 1982 estimate by SIL. Bernard Delpech cites 250,000 inhabitants of the Eton area in 1985. The latest estimate seems to be much closer to reality. It is mutually intelligible with Ewondo, a fact which may have delayed its study for some time. Eton speakers inhabit the Lekié department of the Centre Region of Cameroon, an area north of the capital Yaoundé bounded in the north by the Sanaga River. Ethnologue cites four dialects of Eton, but its speakers generally distinguish two, a northern and a southern dialect, the latter of which is closer to the Ewondo language.

Ewondo: The ewondo or more precisely ‘’Kolo” is a language spoken in the southern part of Cameroon. It is somewhat similar with a few exceptions to other languages ??of Cameroon as “Iton” (or Eton), the ‘’Nnanga’’ the ‘’Bulu’’, the ‘’Fang’’ (Ntumu, etc.) It is a lingua franca used mainly by emigrant workers in the central region of the country (truck drivers, laborers and street vendors). It is the mother tongue of the‘’Beti be Kolo’’ (or Kolo Beti) commonly called, by abuse of language, ‘’Ewondos’’. This name originated from a mistake made by the first settlers. This error in 1895 was accidentally introduced by Georg August Zenker then taken by Pallotine and later the colonial administration. In ‘’Kolo Beti’’, ‘’Ewondos’’ just appoint one of their clans (not a language), as well as ‘’Edzoa’’,’’ Bene’’, ‘’Emombo’’, ‘’Etudi’’, ‘’Tsinga’’, ‘’Enoa’’, ‘’Etenga’’, ‘’Yanda’’, etc. These clans speak ‘’Kolo’’. The clan ‘’Ewondos’’ have the lineages of ‘’Mvog Atangana Mballa’’, ‘’Mvog Tsoungui Mballa’’, ‘’Mvog Fouda Mballa’’,’’ Mvog Atemengue’’, ‘’Mvog Betsi’’, ‘’Mvog Mbi’’, etc. The clan ‘’Bene’’ is composed of ‘’Mvog Manga’’, ‘’Mvog Amugu’’ and ‘’Mvog Belinga’’. The ‘’Mvog Abena’’, ‘’Mvog Ekala’’,’’ Mvog Evuna’’ and ‘’Mvog Ahanda’’ form the clan ‘’Etudi’’. In the clan Yanda we have lineages as ‘’Mvog Ngenda’’, ‘’Mvog Biako’’, ‘’Mvog Ebelkunu’’. Strictly speaking, the language ‘’Ewondo’’ does not exist. The ‘’Iton Beti’’ have clans as ‘’Essele’’, ‘’Mbokani’’, ‘’Mendoum’’, ‘’Menyagda’’ etc. who speak ‘’Iton’’. The ewondo is written with the Latin alphabet based on the General Alphabet of Cameroon languages. It was also written with other Latin alphabets.

Fang: Fang is a Southern Bantoid language of Cameroon. It is traditionally classified as a Western Beboid language, but that has not been demonstrated to be a valid family. "Fang" is the name of the village the language is spoken in.

Fula ('Peul’ in French): Fula or Fulani or Fulfulde or Pulaar is spoken in twenty countries of Western and Central Africa from the shores of Senegal to those of the Nile. It is the mother tongue of the Fulani ethnic groups, and as a second language as the language used regionally by other ethnic groups.This language is a language of West Africa, spoken by the Fulani people (sing. Pullo, pl. Ful?e) of Senegal, Mauritania, Gambia, Guinea, Cameroon, Niger, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Sudan. It is spoken as a mother tongue by Toucouleurs, the Senegal River Valley and as a second language of populations of other areas. This language is an agglutinative language of West Africa and Central Africa.

Hausa (‘Haoussa’ in French): Hausa or Haoussa, but in Hausa: (Hausanci) is a Chadic language spoken in West Africa, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, and Togo. The first poems written in Hausa were written in Arabic alphabet adapted to the notation of African languages ??(`Ajami), dated from the early nineteenth century. At that time also arose a tradition of chronicles versified in Hausa, the most known is the Kano Chronicle (also noted in `Ajami). This tradition was added in the 1930s, as a result of British colonization, a literary production in Latin alphabet and a subset of the pan-Nigerian alphabets from plays, tales, short stories, novels and poetry.