Saturday, 6 May 2017

Cameroon and Bilingualism ... Shocking Revelations Emerge

Cameroon is a ‘bilingual’ nation, a position of prestige which she shares only with Canada in the whole world. Anyone who has been following the ongoing revolution in Cameron would have no doubt about Cameroon being a ‘bilingual haven’. Far from that. It may be in theory and not in practice.


On Wednesday I came across a shocking scene at the entrance to the University of Yaounde I. There was long white banner tied right high over the road with some words boldly inscribed thereon in different colours. As I read down, my eyes fell on the phrase SPORTS PALACE.

I was shocked and troubled. That was the ‘translation’ of “PALAIS DES SPORTS”. Which translator on earth will fail to know that “Palais des sports” is translated into English as sports centre?
This is just an isolated case of bad translations in our ‘bilingual’ nation. It is common place to find terrible translations, even on examination papers, where homographs in both languages are mistaken for words with the same meaning.

The French word “bougie” was once wrongly translated as candle in an examination to mean sparking plug. The amateur translator seemed to have fallen into the trap of the polysemous nature of the word, which could mean candle or sparking plug, depending on the context.

There is certainly nothing wrong in making mistakes, after all, to err is human. But what we deplore is the fact that there is no room for mistakes at this level, given that there are uncountable competent translators in Cameroon, who can make our nation proud.

The major problem with Cameroon is that square pegs are forced into round holes, leaving square holes with round pegs.

Cameroon and Bilingualism ... Shocking Revelations Emerge
No English-speaking, qualified translator (with English as first language or for habitual use) would make such stupid mistakes in English.

This makes us question the raison d’être of translation schools in the nation in the likes of the Advanced School of Translators and Interpreters of the University of Buea. Are they not teaching well? Or are they training good examples of bad translators?

Where are the translators who have graduated from ASTTI since its creation in 1985?

Either the people are not well trained or the powers that be choose the bad elements of the noble profession based on what is popularly known as “connection”.

And it is rather unfortunate that this linguistic staleness is prevailing notwithstanding the presence of almighty National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism.


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