Promotion of Bilingualism and the Policy of Living Together

Bilingualism and Living together, two concepts which have been intensified this last years through the Medias by politicians. What is it all about and how does this profit to Cameroonians?

FRU Claudia AMABO

Bilingualism (or more generally: Multilingualism) is the phenomenon of speaking and understanding two or more languages. The term can refer to individuals (individual bilingualism) as well as to an entire society (social bilingualism). Bilingualism, multilingualism and polyglotism can all be used as synonyms for the same phenomenon. As for the policy of leaving together it call for a peaceful coexistence among all. All this well known in Cameroon, being populated with French and English speaking communities.

For the first time, our country recently established an institution dedicated to strengthening the bonds that bind us, transcending differences of language and culture. This institution will, in fact, work to promote our cultural diversity and our two official languages, the aim being to consolidate national unity and national integration. In his address to the nation on 31 December 2016, President Paul Biya stressed that “Cameroons unity is a precious heritage which no one has the right to take liberties with. Your huge turnout in this hall of the Yaounde Conference Centre shows that the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism is a welcome and relevant institution. Cameroon in its entirety assembles, here today to applaud the clear-sightedness of the Head of State. Mean while the Commission on March 07, 2018 the President Launched a digital platform with the objective of encouraging the spirit of living together. Known as “www.ncpbm.cm” the site is bilingual and contains information’s that respects ethical norms and constantly updated, to keep the national and international community informed on the mandate, activities of the institution and other data of national interest. As if that blessing was not enough, we again live in a country that much to the amazement and perplexity of foreigners uses daily, over 230 other languages of its own. Such a state of play leaves the average Cameroonian speaking something like four or five languages, which to the foreign visitor looks like magic.
Some of our compatriots while abroad have used their linguistic prowess to great profit. One senior civil servant who migrated to America found himself making a living by serving as a translator-interpreter. Yet he never trained as such. What enabled him to do the job was his intimacy with French and English while actively in the civil service of his nation. Another Cameroonian, an Anglophone, who moved to the Republic of South Africa, exploited his talents in a similar way, yet his previous formal linguistic qualifications were limited to a degree in English obtained form the University of Yaounde. Another Cameroonian, still an Anglophone, who obtained a degree in English from the University of Buea, found himself employed in the French-speaking Republic of Burkina Faso, to teach, not English as one might expect, but French! In the same vein, Cameroonian Anglophone children who have moved to schools in Britain, have systematically outclassed their mates not just in French which is supposed to be a `foreign` language to both them and their British counterparts, but also in the English language, and of course most of the other subjects. This level of performance lends credence to the theory that bilinguals are cognitively more versatile than monolinguals.

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