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Globalising a local language and localising a global language: the case of Kamtok and English in Cameroon: The contest between English and Kamtok in Cameroon

  • Aloysius Ngefac

This paper assesses efforts being made to promote and expose a Cameroonian local language, Kamtok, to the global, intellectual community and to integrate and promote a global language in the Cameroonian context. Kamtok carries the ecology, culture and identity of Cameroon, besides being one of the most widely spoken languages in the country. The global language which is the focus of this discourse is English, considering that its use is no longer restricted to any particular country. The language, like other colonial linguistic legacies, was transported through colonialism and transplanted in different parts of the world, including Cameroon, and is now serving communication needs beyond the frontiers of its original seat. It is therefore claimed in this paper that Kamtok, like many Cameroonian indigenous languages, is relegated to the background and hidden from the global community, paradoxically because it carries the ecology and identity of Cameroon, and English, like other global languages, is being localized and promoted in the Cameroonian context with every iota of passion and vigour. This type of tendency is predictably rooted in the colonial history or in what Bokamba (2007: 41) calls a ‘ukolonia’ tendency whereby the colonised people were indoctrinated to believe that everything of theirs, including their indigenous languages and culture, was inferior and barbaric. Interestingly, English in Cameroon, unlike Kamtok, has an official recognition and is one of the official languages used for state transactions; it is taught in most, if not all, Cameroonian schools and the variety spoken in Britain is most often the classroom target, though this is done with little or no success; it has been the focus of many research works carried out by local researchers; and its vigorous promotion has even led to the banning of an important Cameroonian language, as shall be discussed later. Kamtok, on the other hand, has witnessed, and is still witnessing, many turbulent moments, such as the open and official banning of its use in some public circles, the complete absence of educational and political efforts to promote it, lack of standardisation, misrepresentation of its developmental status by both scholars and laypeople, and lack of scholarly interest from local researchers.

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