The Bilingual Competence of Local Council Staffers in the Centre and Littoral Regions of Cameroon

Jean-Paul Kouega (University of Yaounde I)
Sama Alexandre Sihna (University of Yaounde I)


This work sets out to appraise the state of individual bilingualism in francophone local councils in Cameroon. The work checks the use of English by francophone local council workers and of French by their anglophone mates with the focus on the four communicative language skills, i.e., speaking, reading, writing and listening. The ethnographic approach to data collection was adopted, and self-rating through a questionnaire was the major tool used. The eight-item questionnaire was administered to 192 local council staffers. They were 177 (91.14% of 192) francophone workers selected out of a pool of over 500 workers in six local councils situated in two big francophone towns i.e., Douala and Yaounde on the one hand, and 15 (8.85% of 192) out of a total of 16 anglophone workers in these same localities. The analysis of the data collected revealed that very low percentages of francophone workers could perform the following tasks using English: discuss office issues with their bosses (10.16% of 177 subjects), read out a speech (8.47%), write a letter to their collaborators (4.51%), and listen to someone with understanding (20.33%). Conversely, a high proportion of anglophone workers were able to perform these same tasks using French i.e., discuss office issues with their bosses (73.33% of 15 subjects), read out a speech (20%), write a letter to a collaborator (33.33%), and listen to someone with understanding (80%). In short, 63.28% of 177 francophone workers reported having a low performance in receptive skills in English as opposed to 20% of 15 anglophone workers who said the same for French; similarly, 7.34% of 177 francophones claimed to have a good command of productive skills in English as opposed to 53.33% of 15 anglophones who claimed to have a command of French. The implications for the study are that official French-English bilingualism in Cameroon is a mere political wish which is not a reality on the field.


Cameroon; Bilingual competence measurement; Individual bilingualism; Institutional bilingualism; Local council

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