The official languages of Cameroon are French and English, which both belong to the Indo-European language family. French is part of the Romance subgroup, whereas English is part of the Germanic subgroup. Both languages use the same Latin alphabet, although written French utilizes accent marks over certain vowels. Use of each language depends on the region, with 8 out of 10 speaking French over English. These European languages are the result of colonialism.

French is spoken by around 83% of the population of Cameroon, while English is spoken by only around 16%. The number of English-speakers in this country has been decreasing since 1976, when 21% of the population reported speaking English. The Northwest and Southwest provinces have the highest number of English speakers, who have created a new language known as Cameroonian Pidgin English. This pidgin language is used as the language of business in these regions. Additionally, around 230 indigenous languages can also be heard throughout this country.

Learning some phrases in French can be useful for individuals planning a trip to Cameroon. If traveling to the English speaking province, tourists should learn some of the most important Cameroonian Pidgin phrases. Sometimes, the words sound similar to English. For example: “Ma name na ____” means “My name is ___.” The term “ashiya” is used as both a greeting and to express consolation or to say sorry. The English word “sweet” may also be used for something that is “nice”.

Because of the large number of indigenous languages spoken in Cameroon, many of them are considered minority language. The indigenous languages of Cameroon are concentrated in specific pockets around the country. Of these 230 languages, 173 belong to the Niger-Congo language family, 55 are Afro-Asiatic, and 2 are Nilo-Saharan. Some of the minority indigenous languages spoken in Cameroon include: Baka, Akoose, Kotoko, Fungom, Yamba, Gavar, Dek, and Abo.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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