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April 21, 2009


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Si tu vois ma go, will be translated as such; if you see my girlfriend

Virtual Linguist

So, go is 'girlfriend', not 'go'. Thanks Standly.


Camfranglais is a hybrid language spoken in the Republic of Cameroon where English, French and close to 250 indigenous languages coexist. It consists of a mixture of French, English, Pidgin and borrowings from local languages. Kouega defines Camfranglais as: “a composite language consciously developed by secondary school pupils who have in common a number of linguistic codes, namely French, English and a few widespread indigenous languages” (23). Cameroonian youths tend to use this language as a coded language in order to exclude other members of the community from their discourse. In order words, they use it to exchange ideas in such a way that the information would sound mysterious to non-members.Some examples of Camfranglais expressions that one would hear in the streets and school circles in Cameroon include:
Tu play le damba tous les jours? =do you play soccer every day?
Je veux go=I want to go.
Il est come = he has come.
Tout le monde hate me, wey I no know pourquoi = everyone hates me but I don’t know why.
J’ai buy l’aff-ci au bateau= I bought this stuff in the market.
Je vais te see tomorrow= I will see you tomorrow
Elle est sortie nayo nayo= she went out very slowly.
Tu as sleep où hier? = where did you pass the night yesterday?
Tu as go au school? = did you go to school?
Il fia même quoi= what is he really afraid of?

It is the use of terms such as “damba” “see”, “tomorrow”, “pourquoi”, “nayo nayo”., “fia”, “bateau” “aff” and “buy” that may make understanding difficult for older people who are monolingual speakers of French or English. It is clear from these examples that the sentence structure of Camfranglais is calqued on the French syntactic structure. Each utterance above contains at least one English, Pidgin or indigenous language word like “play”, “go”, “come”, “hate” “know”, “nayo nayo”, etc.
This language blend has been developed by urban youths to talk about daily events that are of interest to them, namely dating, entertainment, sports, money, physical looks and so forth. Camfranglais serves its adolescent speakers as an icon of ‘resistance identity’ (Castells 1997). In other words, they create and constantly transform this sociolect by manipulating lexical items from various Cameroonian and European languages, in an effort to mark off their identity as a new social group-- the modern Cameroonian urban youth-- in opposition to other groups such as the older generation, the rural population and the elite. It is a composite language which resembles a pidgin in that it results from contact between several languages (Kouega 2003). To render their language incomprehensible to outsiders, speakers of Camfranglais use various techniques of word formation such as borrowing from various languages, coinage, elision, affixation, inversion, and reduplication.


I forgot to mention that camfranglais has now gradually wriggled its way into Cameroonian literature as seen in my critique of Mercéd♪8s Fouda's novel titled JE PARLE CAMEROUANIS:POUR UN RENOUVEAU FRANCOFAUNE:

By resorting to the domestication of French in her novel,Fouda gives prominence not just to her native tongue but also to the kind of hybrid French that is spoken by the Cameroonian rank and file as this example shows: “Le ‘mamba’ alias billet de dix mille francs, de couleur verte, qui cause dans les bars autant de dégats que la morsure de son homonyme reptilien sur les humains.”(6). By using the word “mamba’ (venomous arboreal snake) to describe money, Fouda underscores the importance of fauna and flora in the speech patterns of Cameroonians. In Cameroon, the word “mamba” refers to the 10000 CFA bill that often arouses feelings of envy when someone takes it out of his/her wallet to buy drinks in a bar. It’s an indicator of the socio-economic status of the spender. Recourse to flora is also evident in this other example: “J’ai un bon gombo pour nous… Le gombo, c’est ce petit job périodique et sporadique dont les revenus disparaissent aussi rapidement que son homonyme, plante mucilagineuse dont on fait les sauces, et qui, surtout cuisinée avec du couscous, descend à toute vitesse dans la gorge.”(36). Gombo is “okra” but in Fouda's novel, it is used as an equivalent to the English language word “windfall”.
Like Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, (1921) Fouda writes in stark defiance of French grammatical conventions. She is saying to the ex-colonizers: you taught me French but I am going to appropriate it to the extent where you will have a hard time recognizing your language when you read it in my text. This is what makes her French an ‘embargoed ‘language from the perspective of Metropolitan speakers of French. If the Académie française had its way, it would not hesitate to put Fouda’a book in a state of pariah on account of her linguistic nonconformity. The quest for linguistic autonomy is evident from the onset—-the title of Fouda’s book speaks to her dissidence. By titling her text Je parle camerounais, she distances herself from Metropolitan French. She does not write: Je parle le français camerounais; rather she writes: Je parle camerounais. Here is another example of Fouda’s attempt to appropriate French in her text: “Attifé ainsi, vous seriez ridicule, et Max a bien raison une fois de plus de montrer ses ‘attrape-manioc’: il se moque gentiment de vous”(37). Les “attrape-manioc” is a reference to human teeth. Because the staple food of Fouda’s people is cassava (manioc) she uses this compound word in reference to teeth. ‘Attraper le manioc’ avec ses dents is to ‘eat a meal of cassava’heartily. This usage clearly shows that the French in Fouda’s text has been been subjected to indigenization to reflect Cameroonian socio-cultural realities. A Westerner reading Je parle camerounais is likely to draw a blank on account of the ‘foreigness’ of Fouda’s lexicon. She uses neologisms typical of Cameroonian speech mannerisms as this example illustrates: “J’ai seulement un ‘papa-j’ai grandi’ et les ‘sans confiance’.”(37). A ‘papa-j’ai grandi’ is pants(trousers) that appear too short for the wearer because s/he has grown taller or bigger. Cameroonians use this expression as a form of mockery and as a reminder to the person wearing the pants that it is time to buy a new one. ‘Sans confiance’ are a pair of slippers that would go bad as soon as the buyer wears them. They inspire lack of self-confidence. ‘Sans confiance’ literally means ‘no confidence’. These are shoes on which no one can really rely because they are badly made.

Virtual Linguist

Thank you, Dr Vakunta. Your comments are much more interesting and informative than my post. I appreciate your taking the trouble to write. Please keep visiting!


Nstobé, André-Marie, Edmond Biloa et George Echu. Le camfranglais:quelle parlure? Etude linguistique et sociolinguistique. New York. Peter Lang. 2008.159 pp. Cloth SFR 50.00. ISBN 978-3-631-55117-2

Peter Wuteh Vakunta, Reviewer

The making of a new Cameroonian language is the theme of a language manual titled Le camfranglais: quelle parlure? Etude linguistique et sociolinguistique written by André-Marie Nstobé, Edmond Biloa, and George Echu who attempt to define and describe a novel urban slang, Camfranglais, that has seen the light of day in Cameroon. Camfranglais, a code created by Cameroonian youths to communicate among themselves to the exclusion of non-initiates, is described by these linguists as “une parlure, c’est-à-dire une manière de s’exprimer particulière à quelqu’un ou à un groupe d’individus.” (9) It is a metalanguage comprised of French, English, Pidgin and Cameroonian indigenous languages. Camfranglais is spoken by young Cameroonians “désireux de s’exprimer entre eux de telle sorte qu’ils ne soient compréhensible que par les locuteurs…capable de décoder les termes empruntés à l’anglais, au pidgin English ou aux langues camerounaises. “ (9) The work comprises a preface, six chapters and a conclusion. The preface written by Ntsobé is followed by Echu’s introduction in which he sheds ample light on the linguistic configuration of the Republic of Cameroon, especially the linguistic plurality that has engendered creolization and pidginization. In chapter1, Biloa attempts to provide a working definition of the term ‘camfranglais’. In the second chapter, he adumbrates on the concept of composite languages, of which Pidgin English and Camfranglais constitute an integral part. The sociolinguistics of Camfranglais is the crux of the discussion in chapter 3 in which Echu analyzes the correlation between Camfranglais and other languages spoken in Cameroon. In chapter 4, Biloa provides a succinct analysis of the phonology of Camfranglais. Echu delves into an analysis of Camfranglais from point of view of word formative processes in chapter 5. Finally, in chapter 6 Biloa treats readers to an appreciation of the morpho-syntactic structure of Camfranglais.
Aside from transcribed oral interviews conducted in academic and non-academic circles in Yaoundé, Douala, Bafoussam and other Cameroonian cities, the researchers had recourse to the mass media (Cameroon Tribune), Masters theses and Ph.D. dissertations in the crafting of this book. They contend that the emergence of Camfranglais marks the beginning of a linguistic revolution in Cameroon. As they put it, “le camfranglais s’enrichit et se revitalize de divers apports linguistiques conduisant à une véritable révolution culturelle…” (9) Camfranglais, they argue, is tantamount to linguistic invasion that threatens the very survival of the French language spoken in Cameroon: “Il faut admettre, il s’agit bien d’une invasion, d’une dictature de mots et de termes venus d’ailleurs et qui diminuent quotidiennement l‘occurrence d’utilisation d’un vocabulaire proprement français.” (9) To put this differently, the quintessence of Camfranglais is the deconstruction of the sacrosanct grammatical canons of the French language. To this end, camfranglophones resort to a variety of word formative processes.
The technique of semantic shift, Ntsobe et al. observe, is a common word formative process in Camfranglais as the following example shows: “Allons book” (22) which could be translated as “Let’s go play cards.” This two-word sentence could pose serious comprehension problems for non-speakers of Camfranglais. The reason is that the English word “book” has been attributed a new signification for the purpose of linguistic appropriation. As Ntsobé et al. point out, “…des mots issus de l’anglais on été désémantisés et resémantisés, c’est-à-dire qu’ils ont perdu leur sens initial pour en acquérir un autre.” (22) There is evidence of obfuscation for speakers outside the select group of camfranglophones when English words are transposed into the lingo as the following sentence illustrates: “Je vais eat le jazz à la long.”(90)[I am going to eat the beans at home]. The word “long” no long fulfills its adjectival function in Camfranglais. Instead, it is used here as a noun. To further complicate matters, camfranglophones sometimes use the same word as a verb as seen in this sentence: “Le djo-ci long dans une villa non loin du lycée.”(90)[This guy lives in a villa not far from the high school.] In a similar vein, the word “kick” takes on a new meaning in the following sentence: “On a kick mon agogo.”(22)[Someone has stolen my wrist watch.] The English word “kick” loses its original meaning and takes on a new signification “steal”. Speakers of Camfranglais seem to have a predilection for language mixing. This explains why Ntsobé et al. caution that to decipher the latent meanings of English words used in Camfranglais, “Il faut absolument connaître la signification de ces mots dans leurs contextes spécificiques.”(90) Camfranglais is a composite language born out of the cohabitation of French, English, pidgin and native languages.
Ntsobé et al.posit that some lexical items employed by speakers of Camfranglais are loans from Cameroonian vernacular tongues as this example shows: “Ne me bring pas ton ndoutou, tu es un poisseux.”(106) [Don’t bring me bad luck, you’re unfortunate.] The word “ndoutou” is worse than ‘bad luck’; it is ill-luck that often breeds more incidents of ill-luck. It is borrowed from the Duala language spoken in the Littoral Province of Cameroon. This one is particularly interesting: “All les gars du kwat-ci sont des ndosses.” (106)[All the guys in this neighborhood are thieves]. The word “ndosses” is a native tongue lexeme. More often than not, Camfranglophones borrow from the English language as seen in this statement: “Quand tu look le couple-ci, ils ont l’air très jeune alors qu’ils sont married depuis from.”(109)[When you look at this couple you have the impression that they are young but they have been married for ages.] The expression “depuis from” translates an unfathomable time span. Evidently, placing the English word “from” in the terminal position as the speaker does above complicates matters for a listener not familiar with Camfranglais.
Ntsobé et al. note that repetition is an important word formative paradigm in Camfranglais as the following example illustrates: “Tu tone-tone quoi? Tu tcha lequel des deux ways ou alors je t’emballe all ça?”(113) “Why are you hesitant? Which one do you prefer? Do you want both?] This interesting one also contains repeated words: “Sa moto est encore ngang ngang.”(124)[His car is brand new.] Some repetitions are laden with humor as this example shows: “Mola, je go où avec une djim djim mater? (124) [Man, what’s my business with such a terribly fat woman?] The word “mater” is a loan from Latin. Speakers of camfranglais frequently use the word “pater” (84) in reference to “father”. The prevalence of ideophones in the speech of Camfranglophones is attributable to the fact that most Africans tend to translate orality into the spoken word by having recourse to parallelisms. Some of the words repeated are borrowed from Cameroonian native languages. This is the case with a word like “keleng keleng” (80) (edible leaves). Loans fulfill the communicative function of bridging cultural gaps as seen in the use of a Bamileke term “famla”(82) to translate a concept that is essentially African--occult society.
It should be noted that Pidgin has enriched Camfranglais enormously as seen in the following statement: “Je tell que c’est quand tu laï les ngas qu’elles te hia.”(118)[I am telling you that girls would only believe you if you lie to them.] The word “laï” is a deformation of the English word “lie”. Lexical truncation is common in Camfranglais as seen in this humorous sentence: “Ton copo là me wanda; on le lap avec ses shoes-la, il ne hia pas.”(118)[This friend of yours amazes me; he seems not to care when people make fun of his shoes.] Or this aggressive one: “Je ne fia personne, s’il me touch je le bollè.”(120)[I am not afraid of anyone; if he messes with me I’ll kill him.] It is evident from these examples that Camfranglophones take the liberty of toying with English and French, official languages spoken in Cameroon. It is on this count that Ntsobé et al argue that Camfranglais is a language of resistance against cultural imperialism.
The discourse in Le camfranglais: quelle parlure? Etude linguistique et sociolinguistique revolves around the use of neology as a word formative modality. Neologisms abound in Camfranglais as these examples show: “tchoukeur” (72) [philanderer]; “tchatcheur” (72) [someone who likes to chat up girls]; “jazzeur” (72) [some who is fond of eating beans]. Some Camfranglais neologisms are anagrams or inversions similar to words found in the French verlan lexicon : répé (père); rémé (mère); refré ((frère) and réssé (soeur) (73) A sizeable number of Camfranglais lexes are abbreviations as seen in the following examples: “chem”(Chemise); “merco” (mercedez); “nden” (identification papers); “tako” (taxi); “ sofa” (suffer) (85); “bao” (baobab); “copo” (copain); “San con” (sans confiance); “BH” (Beignet–haricot) (97), and “quat” (quartier) (100). As these examples illustrate, the suppression of terminal syllables is a technique constantly employed by Camfranglophones to create news words.
In a nutshell, Le camfranglais: quelle parlure? Etude linguistique et sociolinguistique is a vital tool intended for use by language pedagogues, students, translators and visitors venturing into the climes of Cameroon. The painstaking research time invested in the crafting of this invaluable book cannot escape encomium. The didactic value of this work resides in its suitability to both the guru and the neophyte. Linguists with an interest in language mixing, code-switching, pidginization, creolization, and linguistic hybridity would find this work indispensable. It is fervently hoped that lexicographers would take up the challenge of codifying this nascent Cameroonian language for the purpose of giving it legitimacy.

Pashto Linguist Jobs

Linguists have some interesting stories.

 Dr. Peter Vakunta

SPEAK CAMEROUNAIS by Dr. Peter Wuteh Vakunta
Saturday 28 November 2009

I will not parler français at home.
Je ne parlerai point French on the school grounds.
I will not speak French avec mes copains…
I will not speak French with mes camarades de classe…
I will not speak français tout court.
Hello! Ils ne sont pas bêtes, ces Anglos!
Après maintes reprises, ça commenc à pénétrer dans leurs têtes de cochon!
Dans n’importe quel esprit.
ça fait mal;
ça fait honte;
ça agace!
Et on ne speak pas French dans les carabets de matango.
Ni dans les gares routières.
Ni anywhere else non plus.
On ne sait jamais avec ces conasses de froggies!
D’ailleurs, qui me donne cette autorité de crier à tue-tête?
D’écrire ces sacrées lignes?
Peu m’importe!

J’écrirai ce qui me chante.
Sous n’importe quel ciel,
ça laisse voir qu’on n’est rien que des Camerounais de souche.
Don’t mind the frogs: if you are not heureux ici, allez ailleurs!
We’re not tout simplement des conards, you know!
Zut alors! ça commence à me taper sur les nerfs.
J’appelle un chat un chat.
Faut dépasser ça, any how.
Faut parler camerounais.
Faut regarder la télévision en camerounais.
Faut écouter la radio in camerounais.
Comme tout bon Camer.
Why not just go ahead and learn English?
Don’t fight it, vous pigez?
It’s easier anyway.
No bilingual schools,
No bilingual constitutions,
No bilingual ballots,
No bilingual toll-gates,
No bilingual billboards,
No bilingual commercials,
No danger of internal frontiers!

Enseignez le camerounais aux enfants dès le bas âge.
On n’a pas réellement besoin de parler français quand même.
Do we really need English de toute façon?
Le Cameroun c’est le Cameroun, no be so?
Le chien aboie et la caravane passe, I di tell you!
On restera toujours rien que de sales conards
Si on continue à se casser la gueule à cause
Du patois de l’ex-colon.
Conards, Conasses? Non, non, ça gêne!
On n’aime pas ça. C’est pas cute!
ça nous fait bagarrer,
Ca nous fait pleurnicher,
Ca nous fait rire,
Mais quand on doit rire ou pleurer,
C’est en quelle langua qu’on rit ou pleure?
Voyez-vous, we dei for véritable catch 22!
Ah, ah! Et pour aimer?
Et pour haïr?
ET pour vivre…?

©Vakunta 2009



Chaque fois que I think about the deep merde into which these salopards de politiciens
Have plunged this freaking pays,
Je jure que I have the urge to leur tordre le cou with my unarmed mains dare-dare.

Comment se fait-il que we have given ces fils de chien the leeway to not only take every Camers for a ride but also comble de Malheur to hypothéquer l’avenir of our children and grand-children?

Ces bandits dévergondés have non seulement enriched themselves sur le dos de tous les Camers mais
Ils se sont du même coup transformés en véritables fossoyeurs de la patrie!

Comment se fait t-il que the more we complain,the more our leaders nous font la sourde oreille?
J’aimerais bien le savoir because it never rains but it pours,
Merde, Merde, Merde alors!

Il se ne se passe aucun jour without some scary news about le détournement des deniers publics hitting our petits écrans by some quidam originaire de Mvoméka, de Mvolye, ou de Mimboman!

We have hardly digested l’histoire dégueulasse de l’Albatros,now the onus is ours to avaler le choc dur du scrutin présidentiel truqué à vue d'oeil!
Putain! Putain! Putain alors!

Frankly, sommes-nous tout simplement les damnés de la terre, the scum of the community of humans? Or les laissés-pour compte of Planet Earth?
Wouldn’t you really want to know?
A long time ago un certain penseur opiniâtre avait laissé entendre que people deserve their leaders;I have a half a mind to say that je suis tout à fait d’accord avec ce philosophe,
The more so because I truly believe that les Camerounais deserve Monsieur Paul Biya.
Qui dit le contraire? Indicate by a show of hands!

Trêve de blagues! It’s time for stock-taking au Cameroun.
Les Camers must desist from les jeux enfantins and focus on real issues: corruption, impunity,
Ethnocentrism, tribalism, linguicide, Anglophobia, Dereliction of duty, human rights violation,and other conneries qui nous font chier à Ongola.
It is high time we faire face à tant de tracasseries qui minent notre hitherto enviable beau country.

In doing so, we must steer clear of la chasse aux sorcières.
A bon entendeur salut! He that has ears should hear!
© Vakunta 2012

 Dr. Vakunta


Camfranglais, Français makro
Le tchat du quat,
Langua des débroullards—
Sauveteurs, bendskineurs, pousseurs,
Taximans, wolowoss, chargeurs,
Bayam sellams, call-boxeurs, feymans.

Où est la différence?
Il s’agit du parler du terroir:
Je parle camerounais,
Donc je suis Camer.
Tchatchons le Camfranglais seulement.
N’en déplaise aux saras.

Ayez l’avant-goût de notre tchat du terroir:
Attisé ainsi, tu serais ridicule,
Et moi j’aurais raison de
Montrer mes attrape-maniocs,
Autrement dit, je me moquerais gentiment de toi.
Comme tu nyè, le langua des camers est bien chouette.

© Vakunta 2013

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