Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

From Foreign to National: A Review of the Status of the French Language in Gabon/Van Uitheems Tot Volkstaal: 'N Oorsig Van Die Status Van Die Franse Taal in Gaboen

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

From Foreign to National: A Review of the Status of the French Language in Gabon/Van Uitheems Tot Volkstaal: 'N Oorsig Van Die Status Van Die Franse Taal in Gaboen

Article excerpt

Abtract

This article provides a review of the various statuses of the French language in Gabon, a French-speaking country in Central Africa. It reveals a process in which different generations of Gabonese people are increasingly learning, and thus conceptualising, French as a second language rather than a foreign language. Furthermore, some are also learning and conceptualising French as a mother tongue or initial language, rather than a second language. This process of reconceptualisation has somehow been encouraged by the language policy of the colonial administration and the language policy since the attainment of independence, the latter being a continuation of the former. The final stage of this process is that the language has been adopted among the local languages within the Gabonese language landscape.

Key concepts:

French

Gabon

language landscape

language policy

language status

Opsomming

Hierdie artikel bied 'n oorsig van crie verskillende statusse wat aan die Franse taal gekoppel word in Gaboen, 'n Franssprekende land in SentraaI-Afrika. Dit openbaar 'n proses waardeur verskillende generasies Gaboenese toenemend Frans leer en gevolglik konseptualiseer as 'n tweede taal eerder as 'n vreemde taal. Verder is daar ook sommige sprekers wat Frans leer en konseptualiseer as 'n moedertaal of eerste taal, eerder as 'n tweede taal. Hierdie proses van herkonseptualisering is op een of ander wyse aangemoedig deur die taalbeleid van die koloniale administrasie en voortgesit sedert onafhanklikwording. Die uiteinde van hierdie proses is dat Frans, te midde van die inheemse tale, binne crie Gaboenese taallandskap aanvaar is.

Kernbegrippe:

Frans

Gaboen

taalbeleid

taallandskap

taalstatus

1. Introduction

This article provides a succinct review of the status of the French language in Gabon, a French-speaking country in the western part of Central Africa. Many studies have been done on French as it is spoken in Gabon. One could mention, among others, Couvert, (1982), Moussirou Mouyama (1984 & 1986), Ogden (1984), Blanchon (1994), Pambou (1998), Tomba Moussavou (2001), Mindze M'Eyeghe (2001), Mavoungou (2002), Mouloungui Nguimbyt (2002), Ndinga-Koumba-Binza (2004), Ondo-Mebiame (2008), and Bounguendza (2010). A few of these studies such as Moussirou Mouyama (1984), Blanchon (1994), Pambou (1998), and NdingaKoumba-Binza (2004) have tried to circumscribe the status of French in this country. A study that specifically focused on the various statuses of French is that of Pambou (1998).

Pambou (1998:129-146) identified five statuses of French in Gabon, namely (2)

1. second language

2. foreign language

3. mother-tongue, first language or initial language

4. real initial language

5. official language and language of education

This identification by Pambou bears rive issues. Firstly, some of the content and terminology used are not clearly explained. If (1), (2) and (5) are apparently comprehensible, the difference between (3) and (4) is unclear.

This is linked to the second issue, which is that each status should have a specific term. The third issue deals with the random order of his presentation of these five statuses. This order does not show how French has actually progressed to become the mother tongue of an important group within the Gabonese population as is the case at present. The following statement by Bounguendza (2008:13) seemingly shows the progressive status of French:

In Gabon, French has always been the language of the coloniser, thus, in a sense, the language of constraint, a language of assimilation and alienation, although it has afterward become a chosen language, a working language, but also the language of human rights. (3)

Fourthly, the institutional language status should not be confused with an individual's language status. …

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