Bilingualism Promotion : Inspiring Executive Move!
Observably, President Paul Biya is more than ever before bent on making bilingualism; a constitutional provision which has regrettably been thrown to the dogs, a veritable asset for harmonious living together and development. The Head of State has not stopped multiplying decisions to give the two official languages equal treatment as enshrined in the 1996 Constitution. Enhancing the bilingualism of Cameroonians has indeed been prioritised.
One of the strides of the ongoing November session of Parliament is the scrutiny and eventual adoption of a government bill on the “Promotion of the official languages in Cameroon.” In fact, the bill and eventually a law, adds more flesh to Article 1 (3) of the Constitution which provides that, “The official languages of the Republic of Cameroon shall be English and French, both languages having the same status. The State shall guarantee the promotion of bilingualism throughout the country.” More so as the explanatory note indicates that the bill “gives effect to the instructions of the President of the Republic to reinforce the bilingual nature of our country, its multiculturalism and living together.” Specifying that it applies to all public institutions in which English and French shall be the working languages without distinction, ensure the equal use of the two languages in public institutions and above all making provision “for the institution of National Bilingualism Day,” tells of the resolve of the Head of State to even stretch full length to make the dream of explicit bilingualism come true.
Coming on the heels of the Major National Dialogue during which one of the eight committees took time off to examine the intricacies of bilingualism speaks of the will to right past wrongs. In effect, the Bilingualism, Cultural Diversity and Social Cohesion Committee, suggested the enhancement of the practice of Bilingualism in all segments of society through the creation and implementation of programmes starting from preschool ages and notably “pass legislation that spells out the equitable use of both official languages in all areas of national life.” The bill in Parliament is therefore a show of determination to materialise the suggestion and make Cameroonians as bilingual as the country.
Even before sending the bill to Parliament, government had been working tooth and nail to step up the number of translators and translator-interpreters in order to ensure greater representation of the two linguistic communities in public institutions. In fact, the euphoria raised by the announcement that Cameroon’s public service will from 2020 begin a recruitment exercise of 500 translators and translators-interpreters grows as the days ebb out and 2020 approaches. Going by a press release of the Minister of State, Secretary General of the Presidency of the Republic, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, transmitting the instructions of the Head of State, 100 each will be recruited per year beginning 2020 fiscal year.
The decision, like the bill under scrutiny in Parliament, have been taken within the framework of the implementation of the recommendations of the Major National Dialogue which held in Yaounde from September 30 to October 4, 2019. Giving a legal backing to the implementation of bilingualism and at the same time providing the public service with enough well-trained expert translators and interpreters to uphold the country’s bilingualism are indicative of the strong resolve of the guarantor of Cameroon’s constitution to make the two official languages vital assets for living together and not sources of rancour as they have been made to look. It is common knowledge that he who speaks your language wins your heart!
Cameroonians through the multifaceted Presidential moves in enhancing the use of the two official languages therefore need to toe the line and move away from frustrating behaviours whereby some public servants show open disregard for the other official language they don't master and by extension disrespect for those who speak it; regrettably creating social tension.