The Linguist

The Linguist 58,5 - October/November 2019

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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MARKET CONCERNS People gather in Douala market 8 The Linguist Vol/58 No/5 2019 Language is central to Cameroon's civil war, says Georgina Collins, but could literary translation bridge the divide? L ooking down over Cameroon's capital city, Yaoundé, across the corrugated metal roofs, past the neon lights of the bureau de tabac, busy streets, bars, shops and stalls to the beautiful undulating landscape beyond, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a peaceful urban centre, and in many ways it is. But the tranquil façade hides ever-growing tensions that you could be completely unaware of as a first-time visitor. If you don't search too far online or venture too far beyond the capital, you could spend two weeks here and be none the wiser about the so-called 'Anglophone Problem'. 1 In fact, bilingualism appears to be promoted around the city centre on signs and displays. Yet in addition to battling Boko Haram in the Far North region, Cameroon is enduring a bitter civil war, as central government clashes with Anglophone separatists fighting for an independent Federal Republic of Ambazonia in the North West and South West regions (part of the territory previously under British rule). This conflict has a distinctly linguistic element; the remaining eight regions are Francophone, including the Central region – home to Yaoundé and the seat of government (led by President Paul Biya). Since the peaceful protests in 2016 against the marginalisation and assimilation of Anglophone Cameroonians into Francophone legal and educational systems, tensions have escalated. This has led to hundreds of deaths, jail sentences and several hundred thousand displaced people, further deepening the linguistic divide. 2 Before my first visit to the country in 2018, I thought it was bilingual. I presumed that the translation of French literature into English, and vice versa, would be more commonplace in Cameroon than in most other countries, as both are official languages. However, though the country may officially give parity to the two languages, few (if any) locals would say that it is bilingual. During that first trip, I was tasked with conducting a feasibility study on literary translation training provision in West Africa for a project led by Dr Ruth Bush and a team from the universities of Bristol and Exeter. I also visited Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire as part of the initiative, carrying out interviews with more than 60 writers, journalists, students, translators, academics and other stakeholders about training provision across all three countries. 3 While Côte d'Ivoire was in the very early stages of developing literary translation and translation studies training courses at local universities, Senegal was one step ahead with a relatively new MA programme at the Université Gaston Berger in Saint Louis and plans to develop the area of study at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar. New agencies and associations had been established to support the growing profession. However, it was in Cameroon that I found the most striking set of conditions: extensive translation training, a thriving professional translation community, two official languages and a relatively high literacy rate (over 70%), but very little literature translated within Cameroon, exacerbated perhaps by the political climate. The University of Yaoundé I, the capital's private Higher Institute of Translation and Interpretation (ISTIC) and the Advanced School of Translators and Interpreters (ASTI) in Buea (South West region) offer translation training to postgraduate level, but literary translation is only a very small part of such provision. This may be because there are so many governmental, commercial and freelance translation jobs, and a large WAR AND PEACE FEATURES 1500s Portuguese invaders set up plantations and begin the slave trade. 1600s The Dutch take control. 1884 Colonisation by the Germans. 1916 Britain and France take over, with the French governing 80% of the country. 1960-61 Independence first from France and then from Britain. The south of the Anglophone territory becomes part of Cameroon; the north, part of Nigeria. 2016 Protests against Anglophone marginalisation grow in intensity. 2017-2019 Schools are closed as fighting between the military and Anglophone separatists becomes increasingly violent. August 2019 Separatist leader Julius Ayuk Tabe is sentenced to life in prison. Tens of thousands flee the Anglophone region. Conflict in Cameroon © SHUTTERSTOCK

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