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Book Sections Year : 2021

Multilingualism: The language of health in Cameroon


Although a linguistically highly diverse country with more than 280 languages spoken within its bounda ries, Cameroon favours and operates an official bilingual policy in exoglossic, formerly colonial languages, i.e. English and French as enshrined in its 1996 constitution. The two official languages are used to trans mit crucial health information to Cameroonians at all times, including during major disease outbreaks such as cholera and measles. This jractice deprives those Cameroonians who are not literate in any of the offi cial languages of access to relevant first hand health information. Moreover, psycholinguistic research suggests that even bilinguals may receive messages in their native language more positively than mes sages in a language they have learnt later in life. The advent of COVID 19 has further revealed the unpre paredness of the Cameroonian Government to provide information to all its citizens in the languages they understand best since a majority of the languages are neither developed for use nor empowered by the language policy of the country. Providing a comprehensive overview of both governmental and non gov ernmental initiatives aimed at disseminating public health information in Cameroon during the first year of the COVID 19 pandemic, this chapter highlights and insists on the necessity to develop and use national languages in official communication particularly when transmitting health related information. If this is done, it will become possible to easily reach out to all Cameroonians with vital health information at all times, including during disease outbreaks


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hal-03691704 , version 1 (09-06-2022)


  • HAL Id : hal-03691704 , version 1


Pius W. Akumbu, Pierpaolo Di Carlo. Multilingualism: The language of health in Cameroon. Pius W. Akumbu; Justine Germo Nzweundji. Responding to disease outbreak in Cameroon: Lessons from COVID-19., Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, pp.1-17, 2021, 978-3-89645-855-1. ⟨hal-03691704⟩


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