[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 February 2007, 00:28 GMT
New language for divided Cameroon
By Francis Ngwa Niba
BBC News, Douala

Teachers in Cameroon are concerned that the new language frananglais - a mixture of French, English and Creole - is affecting the way students speak and write the country's two official languages.

Pupils at the Ladybird school
Many young Cameroonians are speaking frananglais
With more than 250 indigenous languages and both French and English as official languages, choosing the right vocabulary to convey a message can be tricky.

In the face of this huge variety, youths across the country are bending linguistic rules, the main objective being to communicate easily with each other.

"Frananglais is cool," says Aboti Mariette, a 16-year-old student at the Lycee Technique in Douala.

"How do you expect my English-speaking friends to understand my message if I don't use frananglais? They will not comprend tout ce que je dis (understand everything I say)," she says smiling.

Bad influence

From nursery to primary and secondary schools, frananglais is fast becoming the lingua franca over Creole (pidgin English) which until recently was the best-known and widely used language across the country.

"Je veux go" is a mix of English and French and means simply "I want to go" or "I am leaving."

Tu as go au school - Did you go to school?
Tu as sleep hier? - Did you sleep well last night?
Tout le monde hate me, wey I no know - Everybody hates me, I don't know why
Je veux go - I want to go
Il est come - He has come
Tu play le damba tous les jours? - Do you play football every day?
"Tu as sleep hier?" means "Did you sleep well last night?", while "Tout le monde hate me, wey I no know" is "Everybody hates me, I don't know why."

This is the type of language commonly used by 10-year-old pupils of the Ladybird Nursery and Primary school in Douala.

They say they feel comfortable speaking this language but obviously this is not the same view held by the school authorities.

Fang Hyronius Forghema, head teacher of the school described frananglais as "corrupt" and a bad influence on spoken and written English and French.

The 500-pupil school now has French- and English-speaking days where all pupils must speak only one of the two official languages - there is no frananglais day.

Pupils who break this linguistic rules are punished severely, but that has not stopped the usage of frananglais on school premises.


Opinion is sharply divided on the origins of frananglais.

Francoise Endwin, head of the French department of the Linguistic Centre in Douala says it developed because French and English have a lot of similarities, despite their different syntax.

To cut corners, schoolchildren just mix both, the end result being that they understand each other, he says.

But Mr Forghema contends that French-speaking parents "developed the jargon we now call frananglais" when they realised late in life that their children would benefit if they could speak it.

A lot of musicians now also use frananglais in their music.

One of the earliest musicians to do this was the famous Lapiro de Mbanga, but dozens of other artists have now joined the bandwagon and sing in a language that most people will understand.

That now happens to be frananglais.

The most popular of these musicians now is known as Koppo and his best-known frananglais song is titled Si Tu Vois Ma Go (If You See Me Go).

A mother of three I met buying the album in Douala told me: "I love Koppo's music very much - he sings in a language everyone can relate to."

Jacques Towe, head of the English department of the Linguistic Centre in Douala, says: "Only time will tell what will happen to frananglais. It might develop into a new type of language" that might help bring national unity in a country divided along strong linguistic lines.

As far as I am concerned, "je ne suis pas sure about this" (I am not sure about this).

To be recognised as a language on its own, frananglais will have to be codified.

Some university post graduate students have carried out research on frananglais but they all agree only on one point - if it helps communications, it's good for the country.

Vous reading this toujours? (Are you still reading this?)

You might be hooked already.


Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific