Official Bilingualism in Cameroon: An Endangered Policy?


  • Nguh Nwei Asanga Fon


At the dawn of independence and reunification in 1961, Cameroon opted for a bilingual republic with English and French as its two official languages. “Official bilingualism”—which for a long time became a source of pride and distinguished Cameroon in the international community has been eroded in recent years by a number of factors militating for its demise: controversy over its meaning; challenges in its application; challenges in the safeguard of the English-subsystem of education and law; among others. Can bilingualism survive in Cameroon? This paper sets out to examine factors militating against the survival of bilingualism in Cameroon and factors supporting its continued existence. The analysis is predicated on the hypothesis that though facing significant challenges, bilingualism still stands a good chance to survive in Cameroon. The paper begins with a succinct definition of what is meant by bilingualism in Cameroon and concludes with some proposals on how to better improve on its implementation. The collapse of bilingualism might trigger further political instability in the country as it may be used as leverage for secession, especially with the Anglophone minority which has for long lamented their marginalization. At the international level, such an occurrence (secession) may inspire a similar pursuit to linguistic or ethnic minorities in the Africa and beyond.