PIDGIN: A Cultural Heritage We Should Shun Or Embrace?

{jcomments on}They called it broken English. It is believed that during the colonial era, our colonial masters devised a way to communicate with our forefathers without divulging their secrets and precious English Language. The result is what we know today as Pidgin English. 

Like the English Language, new versions of Pidgin sprung up in many countries sharing a common colonial history. There is a Cameroonian, Nigerian, Ghanaian, Sierra Leonean and Papua New Guinean versions of pidgin. 

In Cameroon, Iknow at least three versions of the said pidgin. The real broken English version spoken in the Anglophone section of the country. It is rich in expressions and wise sayings. For example exclaiming ‘Mamamiyeeeh’ which could take any meaning ranging from surprise to annoyance depending on who is using it and the occasion. Sayings like ‘Fayawood di fall na in front man whey no get axe’ is pregnant in meaning to any who can grasp it quickly. 


There is also the version spoken in the Cameroons East of the Mungo by our French brothers. Theirs is used as a common lingo especially by traders who cannot express themselves in either English or French. It has a certain accent that can make it quickly stand out from the broken pidgin. The Camfrananglais is a new and interesting blend of Pidgin, English and French which has grown into a unique language of expression among the youths.  When you hear a strange sounding language like ‘This Douala heat de so ee fit fry man eske ee don come near na Sun?’ You get the drift of that Camfrananglais. 

And then there is a particular version used by the late legendary musician Lapiro de Mbanga. This particular brand is understood only by a few privileged to listen to and understand his songs. Some examples are listed below.

 sista, na small langwa dat for kwat’, we dey here assuré’

 ‘I say ehh resé…my head di hip small breeze now..I go langwa you na after…jesnoh I de tight’

 Resé no mimba plenty before sharp plenty combi them go langwa you. You go confirmer say oui ça donné’

Any complice weh yi damè yi one and no mimba we, when yi fall chuké, make yi know say yi go play damba witi mberé yi one for ngata.’ (Special thanks to all who gave me pointers on this brand of pidgin).

As a young girl, pidgin was not allowed in our house. It was either Kenyang (My dialect), English or French. Woe betides anyone who spoke Pidgin. However, this did not stop us from picking it up from school and neighbours. 

Ours wasn’t that bad at least we spoke the dialect in our home, something of a cultural heritage to be proud of.

But the fear of Pidgin is the beginning of the loss of what is now very much a part of our culture. It was considered taboo language to the children of the nouvelleriche class which cropped up after independence. Speaking Pidgin was seen as an abomination especially as many of these nouvelle riche were like relics of a colonial past they very much wanted to identify with.

In schools there were ‘chains’ made from snail shells which were worn by habitual Pidgin speakers as punishment seen as a means to stop them from speaking Pidgin. Today, I appreciate one of my classmates. No amount of shell chain wearing could stop her from speaking Pidgin. I now see it as a kind of silent protest in protecting an aspect of her culture.

At the University of Buea, sign posts litter the campus asking students to stop speaking Pidgin on campus. After years of exposure on social media, and seeing how freely many communicate in Pidgin, I feel the University of Buea would be better off creating a whole department that teaches Pidgin English instead of trying to suppress it. Like it or not, Pidgin is here to stay. It is like the fuel that propels the vehicle of communication ahead. It is like the salt and other tasty spices in the absence of which too much Queen’s makes communication tasteless and bland.

 As part of our cultural heritage, I strongly feel Pidgin should be embraced and encouraged not shunned. It is a part of what makes us truly unique, our culture.


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Author: ARREY - ECHI

I am a Sickle Strong Warrior and Advocate. Welcome to my space.

6 Replies to “PIDGIN: A Cultural Heritage We Should Shun Or Embrace?”

  1. Pidgin has invaded Cameroonian homes in the last decade to the point that it is no longer a ‘forbidden’ tongue. for most anglophone youths, it is a mother tongue(they are more fluent in pidgin than in their mother tongues). It is more and more present in the media, in courts, in hospitals and in official spaces where it was hitherto banned. Take a tour of the UniBu campus and you will be amazed at how much pidgin is spoken there, despite sign post banning its use on campus. I totally agree with you Arrey, that “As part of our cultural heritage, I strongly feel Pidgin should be embraced and encouraged not shunned. It is a part of what makes us truly unique, our culture.”

    1. Thank you Sis Maureen for always stopping by and dropping an encouraging word or two. That is all the encore I need to keep writing. You are absolutely right. Pidgin is more a mother tongue now to the youths today and more and more are embracing it. We need to keep promoting our culture in whatever way possible.

  2. I wish to commend the author of this article for reaffirming a position that I have been defending all my life. I launched a publishing house in which I publish in many languages including Pidgin. As an Anglophone Cameroonian Pidgin is MY mother tongue, of course side by side with some others. Pidgin is the language in which I best can express myself. WHY not feel at ease speaking the language you best master? I have taken it one step forward by launching “ASK DOCTA!”,, a highly professional medical program in which my team and I educate the masses in medical issues using Pidgin as the lingua franca. I speak 7 langauges including English, French, German, Italian, Lamnso, Bamena and Pidgin. I have published books in English, French, German and PIDGIN!

    1. Many thanks for Stopping by Dr EA Ngassa and thanks also for the kind words. Ihave often wondered what reaction I would get in case I write a book or something in pidgin. It is motivating to know there are many more like me thinking on a similiar trend. Atleast I know where I can go for help in case I get stock writing 🙂 thank you. ASK DOCTA sounds interesting. Will be checking it out.

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