Frananglais: A Compromise Language?

map1.jpgSue at ELT Notebook from time to time sends me interesting articles, such as this one on IELTS in Iran. Most recently she gave me a heads up on an article about “Frananglais”: a new language for a divided Cameroon, which I have forwarded on to two other bloggers whose opinions I’d be interested to hear: Chris at the Bootsnall Paris Logue and the team at ESL Pundit, one of whom has a focus on linguistics.

Regarding Cameroon and Frananglais:
This country has two official languages – French and English – among over 250 indigenous languages and young people have started using “a mixture of French, English and Creole”: Frananglais.

In school, young people learn one day in French, the next day in English, but no day in Frananglais. Some educators criticize Frananglais: “Fang Hyronius Forghema, head teacher of the school described frananglais as “corrupt” and a bad influence on spoken and written English and French.”

Where did this language – though as it is yet to be codified it is not yet considered a “real” language – come from?

“… Mr Forghema contends that French-speaking parents “developed the jargon we now call frananglais” when they realised late in life that their children would benefit if they could speak it.”

I think any opinion on whether this is a positive or negative development would need to take into account whether this claim about the use of Frananglais affecting French and English is accurate or not. I can kind of imagine it might be…but even if it is, to me there is still a question of if it is more important for people in the country to be united with a common “compromise” language, or for people to be able to communicate easily with others outside the country who won’t speak Frananglais. Or perhaps there is a way to achieve both?

Finally, “A lot of musicians now also use frananglais in their music.” This is interesting to me not only because musicians are presumably older people who haven’t just “absorbed” this language but have gone to some effort to “learn” it, but also because music and the arts more generally can be greatly unifying forces.

All in all, while I can see how educators may rightly have concers, in this day of language being a dividing factor, it pleases me to see people finding a way to compromise in order to communicate. That’s tout pour now.