"Ewondo in the Classes, French for the Masses" Mother-Tongue Education in Yaoundé, Cameroon

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Parker Ray Henry


Cameroon is home to over two hundred eighty native languages coming from three language families, making it one of the most linguistically diverse countries on Earth. Despite this, native languages hold very few domains in Cameroonian society. In recent years, several experimental programs have begun to implement native languages in schools, citing that children learn best in their mother tongue. Among these schools is ELAN-Afrique, an initiative put forth by La Francophonie with the main aim of helping students better learn French by way of their mother tongue. This paper seeks to differentiate the benefits prescribed or expected by ELAN leadership from the actual benefits occurring at one Ewondo-medium ELAN school in Yaoundé. The study includes a series of twenty interviews with program leadership, linguists, and NGOs, as well as teachers and parents of students enrolled in the program. Claims made in interviews were then validated or refuted by classroom observation. The program’s main flaw is the assumption that the students’ mother tongue is Ewondo when in reality, due to their urban upbringing, the students’ mother tongue is French. This causes the reality of the program to differ fundamentally from the expectations of La Francophonie as some predicted benefits are negated, some manifest differently than expected, and other benefits appear never having been predicted.


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Henry, P. R. (2018). "Ewondo in the Classes, French for the Masses": Mother-Tongue Education in Yaoundé, Cameroon. IU Journal of Undergraduate Research, 4(1), 86–93. https://doi.org/10.14434/iujur.v4i1.24507
Social Sciences


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