French and English are the official languages of Cameroon. About 250 other ethnic languages are spoken by about 18 million people.


The name of the country derives from the term used for the Wouri River by Portuguese explorers. Reaching the Cameroon coast near the modern port city of Douala around 1472, those explorers named the river Rio dos Camaroes (“River of Prawns”) after the variety of crayfish they found there. This name later was applied to the coastal area between Mount Cameroon and Rio Muni.

Cameroon has distinct regional cultural, religious, and political traditions as well as ethnic variety. The division of the country into British- and French-ruled League of Nations mandates after World War I created Anglophone and Francophone regions. The English-speaking region consists of the Southwest and Northwest provinces, where Pidgin English (Wes Cos) is the lingua franca and English is taught in school.

The French-speaking region consists of the remaining eight regions, where French is the lingua franca.

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