BUEA, Cameroon (GPI)--
Joana Lum, 47, sells vegetables at the main market in Buea, the capital of Cameroon’s Southwest region. She says she never fails to listen to Global Voices, the lone Pidgin English program broadcast on Cameroon Radio Television Buea, every Tuesday.
“Whenever I pack my vegetables to take to the market every Tuesday mornings, I don’t forget to pack my two-battery radio,” she says, pointing to her radio perched by her display of vegetables.
Lum says she is not a fervent radio listener, but there are two programs that are dear to her heart in the Southwest, one of the two English-speaking regions in Cameroon.
“I don’t know much about programs on radio, but at least I know about Pidgin News over Mount Cameroon FM and Global Voices over CRTV Buea,” she says, smiling. “If I fail to listen to these programs, I feel like I have skipped a day’s meal.”
Global Voices addresses women’s issues, while Pidgin News is a humorous media program. Mount Cameroon FM is a station under Cameroon Radio Television, the main state radio and television station in the country.
Lum says pidgin English is the language she grew up speaking. She spoke English only during primary school because it was the language of instruction. But outside of school, she resumed speaking pidgin English with peers and family members.
For Lum, pidgin English is a language of intimacy, a language she identifies with.
“When I listen to pidgin programs, I feel so happy that the educated journalists have come down to my level,” she says. “I see myself at the same level with the journalists and other contributors of the program. I feel secured. I feel like a Cameroonian. I feel so special and also glad that the uneducated population is taken into consideration as far as radio programs are concerned.”
Lum says that all Anglophone Cameroonians can understand pidgin English programs because many view it as a first language, even though the official languages of the country are French and English. She says that broadcasting in pidgin English is a matter of social inclusion.
“I am appealing to all radio stations to include more pidgin English programs,” she says.
Educated and uneducated Anglophone Cameroonians alike say that the few pidgin English broadcasts on national radio are dear to their hearts. But some Cameroonians say that the language destroys one’s ability to speak proper English. Radio executives say that broadcasting in pidgin English preserves local culture, though there are currently no plans to expand the number of programs on national radio. Tomorrow marks World Radio Day, an international celebration designed to raise awareness and to promote access to information and freedom of expression.
When the Europeans colonized Cameroon, they divided it between the French and the British, says Agnes Tangye, head of the history department at Government High School Mambu in Bamenda, capital of the Northwest, the other Anglophone region in Cameroon. When the British spoke with the community in English, the people misinterpreted many of the words and phrases, leading to new words and phrases that formed the basis of pidgin English locally.