Languages of Cameroon

Languages of Cameroon
Official languages French, English
National languages 55 Afro-Asiatic languages, two Nilo-Saharan languages, and 173 Niger–Congo languages
Sign languages American Sign Language (Francophone African Sign Language)
Lingua franca(s) French, English, Camfranglais, Cameroonian Pidgin English
Knowledge of French in Cameroon in 2005, according to the OIF.[1] In 2005 18% of the population were "real" French speakers and another 26.8% were "partial French speakers".
Map of Cameroon's official languages. Blue: French speaking regions and countries. Red: English speaking regions and countries. White: Bilingual Spanish and French speaking country (Equatorial Guinea)
Map of the region's indigenous 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).[2]

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.[3] Cameroon is a member of both the Commonwealth of Nations and La Francophonie. German, the country's official language during the German colonial period until World War I, has nowadays almost entirely made room for its two successors.

Most people in the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest provinces speak Cameroonian Pidgin English as a lingua franca.[4] Fulfulde serves the same function in the north, and Ewondo in much of the Center, South, and East provinces.[5] 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.[6]

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.[5]

Indigenous languages

Some of the common dialects native to Cameroon include:

  • Abo
  • Afade
  • Aghem
  • Akoose
  • Akum
  • Ambele
  • Atong
  • Awing
  • Babanki
  • Bafanji
  • Bafaw-balong
  • Bafia
  • Bafut
  • Baghante
  • Baka
  • Bakoo
  • Bakole
  • Bakundu-balue
  • Baldamu
  • Balo
  • Balundu-bima
  • Bamali
  • Bambalang
  • Bambili
  • Bamenyam
  • Bamiléké
  • Bamukumbit
  • Bamoun
  • Bamumbu
  • Bamunka
  • Bana
  • Bangandu
  • Bangolan
  • Bangwa
  • Bansop
  • Barombi
  • Bassa
  • Bassossi
  • Bata
  • Batanga
  • Bati
  • Bebe
  • Bebele
  • Bebil
  • Beezen
  • Befang
  • Bekwel
  • Beti
  • Bikya
  • Bishuo
  • Bitare
  • Bokyi
  • Bomwali
  • Bu
  • Bubia
  • Buduma
  • Bulu
  • Bumbung
  • Busam
  • Busuu
  • Buwal
  • Byep
  • Caka
  • Cung
  • Cuvok
  • Daba
  • Dama
  • Dek
  • Denya
  • Dii
  • Dimbong
  • Doyayo
  • Duala
  • Dugwor
  • Duli
  • Duupa
  • Dzodinka
  • Efik
  • Ejagham
  • Elip
  • Eman
  • Esimbi
  • Eton
  • Evand
  • Ewondo
  • Fali North
  • Fali South
  • Fang
  • Féfé
  • Fulfulde, Adamawa variation
  • Fulfulde, Kano-Katsina-Bororror
  • Fungom
  • Gaduwa
  • Gavar
  • Gbaya, Northwest
  • Mundani
  • Moghamo
  • Nso'

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Neba 65.
  3. ^ DeLancey and DeLancey 51.
  4. ^ DeLancey and DeLancey 220.
  5. ^ a b DeLancey and DeLancey 192.
  6. ^ DeLancey and DeLancey 131.


  • DeLancey, Mark W., and DeLancey, Mark Dike (2000): Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Cameroon (3rd ed.). Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press.
  • Neba, Aaron, Ph.D. (1999). Modern Geography of the Republic of Cameroon, 3rd ed. Bamenda: Neba Publishers.

External links

  • page on Languages of CameroonEthnologue
  • PanAfriL10n page on Cameroon
  • Aménagement linguistique dans le monde - Caméroun
  • Leinyui, Usmang Salle. n.d. "Bilingualism." (article focuses on Cameroon)
  • Rosendal, Tove. 2008. "Multilingual Cameroon: Policy, Practice, Problems and Solutions." University of Gothenberg, Africana Informal Series, No. 7
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