As we've said many times before, Cameroon is a fascinating country with a rich and diverse culture. Because of its captivating history and multiple occupations, there are at least 250 different languages spoken in Cameroon but, sometimes, reports claim up to 600 languages. This includes 55 Afro-Asiatic languages and two Nilo-Saharan languages as well as French and English. With French and English being the main spoken languages, Cameroon aims to become bilingual, which has led to a mixture of phrases becoming common.
To help you better understand the lives of our children in Cameroon looking for sponsorship, we wanted to take a deep dive into the language of Cameroon and introduce you to some common phrases that are an essential part of daily life.
Bonjour - Good morning, good day, hi
The French greeting Bonjour is the typical way to start a conversation in Cameroon, at any time of day. This phrase should be an easy one to remember as a great way to greet your sponsored child when writing them letters of emails.
Merci – Thank you
It's only polite to say thank you, and luckily in most areas of Cameroon, both the French and English versions of this word are understood.
Oui / non – Yes / No
Of course, you must know yes or no when learning the language of any country and again in Cameroon, it's really simple to remember as the majority of the country use the French terms.
S’il vous plait – Please
Again, please is basic manners and in Cameroon, it's the French term that is the most common which should be easy to remember. Although in many areas of the country, the English word please should be understood.
Au revoir / bye-bye – Bye
As with any language, there are many ways to say goodbye. Either the English or French terms are widely understood, but we're sure our children have also adopted some slang terms for Goodbye.
Ashia – Sorry
This word carries a very significant meaning in Cameroon. It's much more than just saying sorry, in Cameroonian this term is empathy bundled into five letters. However, you must be careful not to make it sound sarcastic, as Cameroonian locals will know if you don’t mean it.
A don die – I’m finished / It’s very funny
One of the most difficult things to get to grips with in Pidgin English is its double, sometimes opposite meanings. If you find yourself in a bad situation, then this phrase can be used to show you’re in trouble. However, if someone is making you laugh hilariously, the same phrase describes it.
Smoke! – Too good
Sometimes something can be so good and look so good that you lack words to describe it, whether it's the stunning views in Cameroon, the local dishes or even the fun times our children have! This phrase is not very common but it's one a lot of younger people are using, so you’ll look even cooler with the children of Cameroon if you use this phrase.
Wusai toilet dey? – Where is the bathroom?
Here is another of Cameroon's Pidgin English phrases. Pidgin is very fluid so you could still just say ‘Wusai toilet?’ or ‘Where toilet?’ and still be understood. However, this is the most polite way to ask where the bathroom is.
A want go market – I want to go to the market
A slight variation on the English phrase. You could replace ‘market’ with any place you'd like to find and you’ll be able to navigate your way around even Cameroon's largest cities.
A di hungry / a want chop / faim dey me – I’m hungry
If you want to indulge in Cameroon's delicious delicacies then you'll need to let people know you're hungry. Here are three phrases that will let people know you're ready for a taste of the local cuisine.
A beg for water – Can I have some water, please?
If you're in a country with a climate as hot as Cameroon can be, then you'll need to ensure you keep hydrated. Unsurprisingly in a country with over 600 spoken languages, there are many ways to ask for water, but this simple phrase should do the trick.
Dis chop fine – The food is delicious; I like it
As we've discussed in previous blogs, Cameroon's national dishes are full of flavour and incredibly tasty. So if you ever find yourself trying one you'll no doubt want to send compliments to the chef. This is a simple yet great way to show your appreciation.
Na how much? – How much is this?
If you're shopping in Cameroon's vibrant markets, you'll need to know the price. Ask this about any item you're looking to buy and you're sure to get the answer you're looking for.
E dear / e over dear – It’s too expensive
Traditional Cameroonian markets are renowned for bargaining so this phrase could be essential. Unless you’re in a supermarket, where prices are standard, you’ll have to bargain your way through life.
We hope that these phrases will help you to learn a little more about Cameroon, but also that it's been fun to learn a bit of local lingo used by our children every day.
If you'd like to sponsor a child and help them reach their dreams through education and a better quality of life, then visit our sponsorship page. To learn more about this fascinating country and the people within it, keep an eye out for the next blog in our culture series.