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Do People Speak French in Cameroon?

  1. Do they speak French in Cameroon?
  2. What are the main languages spoken in Cameroon?
  3. What is the French level in Cameroon?
  4. Do they teach French in schools?
  5. Do tourist need to speak French if visiting Cameroon?
  6. Can you live in Cameroon if you speak just French?
  7. How has the level of French changed over the years?
  8. Thinking of travelling to Cameroon.
  9. Conclusion

Cameroon is known as Africa in miniature because of its amazing cultural and geographical diversity. As home to over 1738 diverse linguistic groups, with distinct cultural, religious, and political traditions, colourful festivals, crafts, and artistic expression, as well as refined cuisines with versatile dishes influenced by Portuguese, French, German, and Britain, the country’s diversity cannot be overemphasized. 

As a result, Cameroon is among the top countries in Africa with the highest number of tourists. If you’re french speaking? Do you plan to visit Cameroon but wonder if they speak French, this article is exclusively a treat for you.  

The short answer is YES! French is one of the two official languages spoken in Cameroon besides English. Remarkably, the French language is spoken by many Cameroonians throughout the national territory.

Aerial cityscape view to Yaounde capital of Cameroon
Aerial cityscape view of Yaounde, capital of Cameroon

Do they speak French in Cameroon?

Yes! They speak french in Cameroon. 

Due to Cameroon’s colonization by France and Britain between 1916 – 1960, Cameroon is today the only official bilingual country in Africa and the world; it shares the spotlight with Canada.

After gaining its independence from France in 1960 and Britain in 1961, the two languages, French and English, respectively, were a few of the things retained by Cameroon from its colonial masters.

As a result, Cameroon has two official languages, namely; French and English, spoken and taught throughout the national territory.

What are the main languages spoken in Cameroon?

There are over 262 languages spoken in Cameroon. These languages can be grouped as official and unofficial languages.

Official Languages

French and English are the official languages spoken in Cameroon; with French being the main language in eight out of the ten regions, which include; 

  1. Centre
  2. Littoral
  3. West
  4. East
  5. Adamawa
  6. South
  7. North
  8. The Far North

And English is the main language in the remaining two regions, namely, North West and South West.

Unofficial Languages

Besides the two official languages, Cameroon is home to over 260 native tongues and various pidgin languages.

Pidgin Languages

The pidgin languages blend one or both official languages with native tongues.

In the English-speaking regions, the Kamtok, otherwise known as Cameroon pidgin English is the lingua franca spoken and understood by most residents. It is a mix of English and native tongues and has a total of five varieties: the Bororo Kamtok, Grafi Kamtok, Limbe Kamtok, Francophone Kamtok, and the Liturgical Kamtok.

To ease communication in the French-speaking regions, the Camfranglais, also known as Francanglais/Francamglais, a language which is a blend of Cameroon French, Cameroon English, Cameroon Pidgin English, and a variety of native elements is the lingua franca.

Native Languages

The indigenous languages spoken in Cameroon include;

  • 2 Nilo-Saharan languages
  • 4 Ubangian languages
  • Over 55 Afro-Asiatic tongues, for example, Hausa, Hya, Bana, Wandala, Psikyo, etc.
  • Over 169 Niger-Congo tongues are divided into 142 Benue- Congo languages, 28 Adamawa tongues, and a Senegambian native tongue. Over 130 Benue- Congo Languages are Bantu tongues and the Senegambian tongue, aka Fulfulde.

The most popular native languages spoken include;

  • Ewondo: also known as Kolo, is a Bantu language native to the Centre region and some parts of the South region. It has many dialects, for example, Beti, Bane, Badjia, etc. There are over half a million Ewondo speakers in Cameroon.
  • Bassa: This is another Bantu language native to the Littoral region. It is spoken by over 300,000 people in Cameroon today.
  • Douala is a cluster of Bantu languages native to the people of Douala and Mungo in the Littoral Region. It can be split into Mongo, Oli, Pongo, Bodiman, and Duala.
  • Fufulde: It is a Senegambian tongue native to the Northern part of Cameroon.
  • Bulu: It is a Bantu language native to the South region and some parts of the Centre and East regions. There are over 860000 native speakers of Bulu in Cameroon.
  • Hausa: There are about 325000 Hausa speakers in Cameroon

What is the French level in Cameroon?

French is largely spoken in the French-speaking regions of Cameroon. Data from a census performed in Cameroon shows that; 

Region% of the population that speaks French
Centre88.3%
Littoral88.2%
West74.8%
South88.3%
East69.8%
Adamawa29.6%
North29.5%
Far North29.6%
For more information on the above census data, visit the Translators without Borders webpage.  

Do they teach French in schools?

YES! French is taught in schools.

Most schools in the French regions use French as the teaching/speaking language, while English is the main teaching/speaking language in schools in anglophone regions.

African kids all sisters smiling
The majority of schools in the French region of Cameroon use French as the teaching language.

However, for Purely English schools under the Anglo-Saxon education system, French is taught as a compulsory subject from Nursery school to Form five in secondary school and is one of the compulsory subjects for all G.C.E Ordinary Level Candidates.

Also, Bilingual schools owned by the government usually have two sections; the Francophone section, with students studying primarily in French under the Franco-Saxon system of education, and the Anglophone section, with students studying in English under the Anglo-Saxon system of education.

Do tourist need to speak French if visiting Cameroon?

The answer is YES. Tourists should speak French if they wish to explore tourist sites in French areas. However, this is essential to ease communication due to the likelihood of meeting French-speaking people in these locations.

Nonetheless, they can still freely move and enjoy the country’s attractions from the French regions to the English ones, even without needing to speak french. 

Panorama of main cascade of Ekom waterfall at Nkam river, Cameroon
Panorama of the main cascade of Ekom waterfall at Nkam river, Cameroon

Can you live in Cameroon if you speak just French?

The answer is YES! You can live in any part of Cameroon, even if you speak just French, because about 26% of Cameroonians today are bilingual, and a few others can understand enough of the second language to go about their daily lives.

Speaking just French makes communication somewhat difficult if you live in an English region. This is because only a few people might be able to understand your language. Learning other languages like English or Cameroonian pidgin English, commonly spoken there, will help solve your communication problems.

How has the level of French changed over the years?

Before reunification French was mainly spoken in French Cameroon, which France once controlled. However, after obtaining independence and unifying Cameroon, French literacy has increased throughout the national territory as French is now taught in schools all over the territory.

Thinking of travelling to Cameroon.

For people who intend to travel to Cameroon, contact the Cameroon embassy in your country for visa information, tourist information, emergency contacts, etc.

Note that these pieces of information may differ from one country to the other.

Cameroon has 28 embassies and 20 consulates in different countries around the globe.

Conclusion

Cameroon is one of the countries known on the UNESCO linguistic map for its remarkable cultural diversity. Its cultural diversity results from many things, including the residents’ languages. French is the most widely spoken language in Cameroon, followed by English, both of which are official languages of the country.

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