Cameroon is one of the world’s most culturally, linguistically, geologically and ethnically diverse countries. For this reason, it is often referred to as the “Africa in miniature”. Cameroon is a West African nation which is home to over 1738 different linguistic groups.

The official languages of Cameroon are French and English, a result of the country having served as the colony of both France and the United Kingdom between the years of 1916 until 1960. Although the country is now independent, the colonial past is reflected in its selection of the official languages. French is the most widely represented language in Cameroon, as approximately 8 out of 10 regions of the nation are francophones. This translates to about 83% of the population. The remaining 17% are mainly anglophones, although the proportion of anglophones in the country has been gradually decreasing.

The Government of Cameroon has set up several bilingual schools in the country in an attempt to encourage the learning of both official languages. However, the number of Cameroonians who can actually speak both languages is very low. In fact, some do not even speak either of the languages.

Among all the countries of Africa, Cameroon has the largest number of German speakers. German used to be the official language of Cameroon during the German colonial rule in the country prior to the First World War. After the war, German was gradually dominated by French and English and soon lost its status of the country’s official language. Nevertheless, German is still a popular language among the students in Cameroon, with approximately 300,000 speakers and learners in the country.

There are approximately 55 Afro-Asiatic languages spoken in Cameroon, as well as 169 Niger-Congo languages, 4 Ubangian languages, as well as 2 Nilo-Saharan languages, reflecting the country’s incredible linguistic diversity. The Niger-Congo languages can be further classified into 140 Benue-Congo languages, 28 Adamawa languages, and one Senegambian language. The General Alphabet of Cameroon was established in the 1970s as an orthographic system for all Cameroon languages.

The lingua franca in the northwestern and southwestern parts of the country is Cameroonian Pidgin English. Fulfulde plays the same role in the north, while Ewondo serves as the lingua franca in the eastern, southern, and central provinces of the country. In the regions where French-speaking and English-speaking Cameroonians meet, a hybrid of English and French called Camfranglais is used. Moreover, the American Sign Language is used as the sign language in Cameroon by the deaf community.


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