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« Dr. Nfah-Abbenyi: The Anti-Pidgin Campaign or the "Cancerous Embrace of National Integration" | Main | Bakassi: The Nigerian Withdrawal Begins »

August 14, 2006


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That is a hilarious picture!:-)

"Precise the type of accidents"?... that is a "mot-a-mot" translation of "Préciser les types d'accidents". Of course, Preciser or "precise" as the sign states, actually means "specify".

Great article!

Rosemary Ekosso

Excellent analysis as usual. I myself find pidgin wonderfully versatile, and I have never felt that it interfered in anyway with my acquisition of any language. I speak it when I can, and teach it to whoever is interested in learning.

The new middle class wants to distance itself from its origins.

The assimilationists want to be subsumed into the dominant identity. It will all fail, because though language can be used as a tool in politics, it is, in the end, a tool with a mind of its own. It goes where it will.

I speak African English, and I am proud of it. I wish we would stop trying to be "British". That is, in part, the disease of UB.

It is painful to see how hard some of our fellow countrymen/countrywomen will try to be seen as the custodians of a culture that first exploited and crushed them, then abandoned them to be finished off by the people from accross the river.

Poor us!

Dr Aloysius Ngefac

Ngefac and Sala (2006a and b) articles rather perceive the situation and status of Pidgin English in Cameroon from a radically different perspective. Instead of holding Pidgin English responsible for the falling standards of English in Cameroon, they consider English, the powerful world lingua franca, to be posing a serious threat to Cameroon Pidgin English. This threat is serious to the extent that if the trend continues, Cameroon Pidgin English, an independent language that existed in the yesteryears, may sooner or later be in a continuum with Cameroon English, a situation that is likely to deprive Cameroonians of an important weapon of national integration.

Lydia Simulu

In America, it does help a lot to adapt speaking English wherever you are as the mainstream host population. You blend in better and it does bestow social and economic gains. Infact I have known highly qualified PhD science graduates who have missed high profile job opportunities due to the fact that they speak English with a rather strong African accent. The use of pidgin is part of the problem.
Maybe we can simplify the debate on the use of pidgin in Cameroon by pigeon-holing the discussion to the vexing issues of poverty and lack of sustainable development in an age of rapid globalization. If we can jettison the use of pidgin in Cameroon as a measure to prepare our students in communication skills necessary in the very competitive global marketplace, I say, let's do it, won't you agree. I look at it from a utilitarian perspective and I suspect a lot of the interlocutors in this debate are equally concerned about improving standards in English per se and view Pidgin as an unsavoury hindrance which is by and large correct. Promoting the use of Pidgin for Anglophone political correctness is a scintillating argument especially in academia. However, the debate has become too academic and has been over politicized. Given the tense political climate in Cameroon, I can understand. To the average anglophone in the streets and villages, who cares. I bet many of the contributors in this discussions would readily seize the opportunity to enrol their kids in the latest ivy-league British Council school in town where only posh English is taught by VE graduates. How nice!

Ambe Johnson

Hi Lydia,

If this was about what accents our kids will use when they go to America, then we would have to ban the use of our ethnic languages because they, more than anything else, influence our accents. That is why a person from the Northwest speaks with an accent different from the person from the Southwest province. And we will also have to teach Western accents in our schools as they do in India's technology institutes.

Pidgin is not the culprit here. Once again another well-intentioned but wrong analysis.

BTW, Cameroon cannot base its language policy on whether its citizens' accents will be accepted or not accepted in America!!!! Asian, Indian, and Eastern European immigrants are succeeding everyday in America with accents that are heavier than anything from Cameroon....

We all agree that there is a problem with English language in Cameroon, but has the quasi-criminalization of Pidgin in UB improved English standards in that University? No. First of all, the "prevention policy" has not been coupled with any real "promotion policy". The policy is simply "speak pidgin and you will be sanctioned". Typical Cameroonian approach to things. What has been the pedagogic contributions of UB linguists to this policy? Zero. This was an administrative/political solution to a pedgogic problem.

Second, the problem is not at the level of the university. It is with the failed language policy in primary and secondary school as has been pointed out by various commentators in this blog. Fix that and you wouldn't have to deal with the monster at university level.

Yes, everyone would like to see their kids go to an ivy league school in America, but what has that got to do with Pidgin? Like many regular Cameroonian parents, mine where illiterate and all we spoke at home was our native language and pidgin. So my real contact with English was at school or with other authorities. But I was lucky to have gone to regular Cameroonian schools where the teachers did their jobs. And today, I have nothing to envy from my friends from "good" families who attended the American School or PNEU. When time came for GCE English, the fact that they were "little Americans" did not help them one bit. And today in the US, we are all in the same boat; immigrants trying to survive in another man's country.

Lydia, this is not a problem created by those in the Ivory tower. It is real. and as long as we pursue this anti-pidgin policy, we will be missing out on fixing Cameroon's education system in general and its language policy in particular. This is not about poverty or sustainable development, or even globalization.

Ma Mary

As a longterm America dweller, I have this to say about accents in this culture. A touch of accent is considered charming, and even mysterious, especially when you know your stuff. Accent becomes an impediment when it is so heavy that it interferes with communication.

As Ambe correctly points out, this is not an issue about accents but about the proper teaching of English (and perhaps pidgin) in primary and secondary schools. It is something that ought to be taken seriously. If this were a question of French, France would dispatch 100 experts from France to support the process, because they will do everything to halt the ever shrinking relevance of French as a world language. Since it is English we are talking about here, we should not expect external help. We have to do it by ourselves, because there is no shortage of people all over the world struggling to master English in part of their striving for upward mobility.

Somewhere in this debate, people have remarked that the pidgin issue is being used by French Cameroun as a point to disparage Southern Cameroonians. Southern Cameroonians are not the ones falling over each other to send their children to French Cameroun schools. They are the ones sending their children in droves to block opportunities in our secondary schools. If they were being practical and not politics and pride driven, they would end this bilingualism nonsense and adopt English as their official language of business. What is this sentimental attachment to a dying European language anyhow? I think Rwanda is in the process of doing just that, jettisoning French and increasingly using Kinyarwanda and English in their schools.

Danny Boy

People seem to forget that the sole purpose or use of any language,is to commuicate with. That means getting your point through to your listener.It does not matter if one communicates this in pidgin or in perfect English.The essence is, has your message gone through? I remember a colleague who used to teach chemistry in pidgin. Ex-students of Sacred Heart College might remember who this highly esteemed person is. When I asked him why? His cool answer was, "Look at my students results!" How right he was.


Very funny Danny Boy lol

Dr. Aloysius Ngefac, Fulbright African Senior Research Scholar, University of Pennsylvania, USA.

Attitudes towards Cameroon Pidgin English (CPE), especially those of purists and cynics, show that the aesthetics, flexibility and richness of the language, including its contents and systematic patterns, are still to be discovered by many people. Instead of perceiving the language as the basilectal variety of Cameroon English (CamE) that lacks a structure of its own, I am demonstrating in a current project that Cameroon Pidgin is a rule-governed language that displays systematic and well-patterned lexico-morphological and syntactic peculiarities. In this light, it would be proven that those who castigate the language and rather rely on English language canons to assess and use it are, in fact, violating its rules and may even be accused of wrecking a serious havoc on its structure (see Ngefac and Sala, 2006a).
The project will further show that the word “simplicity” found in most definitions of CPE (see Schneider 1960) does not in any way suggest that any English word can be borrowed and used in the language. The term presupposes that the words borrowed from English are down-to-earth simple lexical items, usually monosyllabic and, sometimes, disyllabic words, and not complex trisyllabic or multisyllabic English words. Such simple words, as shall be underscored in this project, usually undergo simple morphological processes to express thoughts that are expressed in English with complex single words. The term “simplicity” equally presupposes the existence of non-English words in the language, borrowed from mother-tongue languages spoken in Cameroon, but such words, though quite simple and familiar to Cameroon Pidgin speakers, rather appear complex to speakers of the language from different continents.
I am therefore recommending that, instead of treating CPE as a “structureless” and deficient variety of CamE that “accepts” just anything and "rejects" nothing in the name of simplicity, it should be perceived as a rule-governed independent language that displays systematic and well-patterned linguistic processes.

Che Sunday

“I find such notices senseless. In fact, the people who seemed to have understood the import of Pidgin as a language of mass communication are the missionaries.."
I would hope that the word "import" was meant to be "Importance."

The above quote says it all. Often times, we go far looking for reasons for our
failure(s), when the answers lie on our laps. That English standards have fallen in Cameroon is not a myth. That Pigin English has anything to do with it is a myth. When I attended primary school, we were forbiden to speak either pigin English or vernacular i.e, our local languages in class. But as pointed out above, we studied catechism in pigin, spoke nothing but pigin or our local languages during breaks. Grade school was 8 years, 2 years of infant one and two, then six years of standards one to six. Teachers got paid, they showed up for work and earned their pay working for it.
We slowly reduced primary schooling to seven years, and are now embarking on making it six years.
Teachers hardly know when they will get paid. Some show up just to get away from home. They don't teach. Logic would suggest that when you cut back on the duration of any form of training, you must augment your methods with improved facilities and resources necessary to either maintain or improve your outcomes. In Cameroon, a reduction with zero imput is always the modus operandi, but with anticipated improvements.
Several years back, a similar argument was raging in the United States. The predominant language spoken in black neighbohoods termed "ebonics" all of a sudden received so much attention from politicians because there was a suggestion to have it included in the high school academic curriculum. Opponents argued that blacks were having difficulties catching up with other ethnicities academically and including a language which they see as inferior was not going to improve on their academic performance. These policians failed to take into consideration the discrepancies, resource wise, existing in schools in mainstream America and in poor black neighborhoods. Their main focus was on that which they could easily pass the blame on.
Pigin English is the one thing most common to anglophone Cameroon, not standard English. It has proven to be the language of religion, commerce, and most of all, the language of entertainment as most of our folklore has been written into it.
The students of the University of Buea picked a non issue to build an issue out of. Most students coming into Buea with faulty English skills are not going to be any better when they leave Buea if they stop speaking pigin English. They can only get better if the teaching faculty implements remedial English courses to make up for what both primary and secondary schhooling failed to prepare them for.

Dr. Aloysius Ngefac, Fulbright African Senior Research Scholar, University of Pennsylvania, USA.

The archetypal pattern of life inevitably involves birth, life and death. Cameroon Pidgin is a living entity that came into existence. It must live, even against the wish of man and it may one day die, like any other living entity, but we must first of all give it an opportunity to live. Precipitating its death now is like trying to reverse and distort the achetypal pattern of life.

Mrs Regina Kabari

I am writing a project,and the topic is The Influence of pidgin English on pupils performance in English Language.A case study of Ughelli South

Ma Mary

That is an interesting project, Mrs Kabari. The collection of Nigerian States formerly known as Bendel, where you are doing the work, speak the most beautiful and highly developed pidgin in Nigeria. Like, Southern Cameroons, pidgin is the real lingua franca of the region. Would be interesting to know your findings.


Mr.Aloysious, you don't have to attach titles to your name like Fulbright scholar for people to take you seriously.Let your words speak for themselves and not titles.
I don't know if you attach these titles to intimidate,or because you are proud. Either way, it's predictably pathetic.

Peter Nyeng


If Dr. Ngefac is mentioning his titles because he is "proud", then I bet you are hiding behind a very silly name because you are a "coward"...

I'll rather know who I am talking to (titles and all) than debate with a faceless fellow like yourself... Can you please be a man and drop the mask?


The "faceless" critic of Dr Ngefac displays two transgressions, one of which is, paradoxically, the one he/she is condemning. He/she addresses Dr Ngefac as "Mr Aloysius". Why does he or she consider the title "Mr" important? Why can he or she not simply address him as "Aloysius", if titles are not relevant at all? Why does he or she also use a wrong title? In my opinion, titles are not bought with money; they are the outcome of serious hard work and sleepless nights. Being able to have a title is merit and not a wish! If you have no title, rather work hard to earn one, rather than being jealous of people's titles. Go back to Dr Ngefac's write-ups and you will realise that he needs to be taken very seriously by virtue of both the quality of his contributions and his titles.


What are current attitudes towards Cameroon Pidgin English? Has anyone carried out any recent study to investigate attitudes!

Tabot Elizabeth Ebangha

Pidgin is a language like any other language, it should be allowed to develope because those who have or like to use it will use it only when and where they need it.INALCO(French indegenous language institute) statistics has proven that pidgin is spoken in the whole of West Africa and is a lingua franca which gives a common English Speaking African identity. There is nothing wrong in knowing different languages.


Right now I need a pidgin version of the Catechism because a friend of mine needs to give instruction to a lady who understands nothing else. I am here on the web trying to get her a print out she could begin with. Could anyone help out? I would be most grateful and so would the two other people involved.
Thanks for any help you can render.

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