Research I: Equatorial Guinea

General information

Equatorial Guinea presents an exceptional research field within the studies of the Spanish language. Except for the politically sensitive case of Western Sahara, Equatorial Guinea is the only Hispanophone country in Africa and thus offers a completely unique view of the world language Spanish, complementary to Europe and America. Despite this outstanding position, Equatorial Guinea still occupies a marginal status in studies on the Dialectology, History, Sociolinguistics and Language Contacts of Spanish.

Equatorial Guinea is a small country in Central Africa, located in the Gulf of Guinea. Its geography is divided into a continental part called Río Muni and several islands: the main island of Bioko (with the capital Malabo), the island of Annobón, and the small islands of Corisco, Elobey Grande and Elobey Chico. Equatorial Guinea has two major cities: Malabo and Bata, a lot of smaller towns and villages, and it offers beautiful landscapes with beaches, cascades and tropical forests.

Geographical location of Equatorial Guinea (map created by S. Schlumpf, 2020)

Equatorial Guinea's invisibility in studies about the Spanish language is intensified by a widespread lack of consciousness about this country and a still dominantly European view on African realities based on colonial stereotypes, evaluations and hierarchizations. The general knowledge about Equatorial Guinea within the Spanish-speaking world is very incomplete, which is particularly surprising in the case of Spain, since Equatorial Guinea only gained its independence from Spain just over 50 years ago (in 1968). 

From a sociolinguistic point of view, Equatorial Guinea is characterized by its multicultural and multilingual society. Spanish represents the country’s first official language and its most important lingua franca. However, other languages constitute the first languages of the majority of the Equatoguinean population. In fact, Spanish coexists and interacts with several languages of different typological structure, official status and contexts of use: the local languages of the Bantu family (Fang, Bubi, Kombe/Ndowé, Bujeba/Bisió, Benga, Balengue and Baseke), the Portuguese-based Creole Fá d’Ambô/Annobonese (spoken on the island of Annobón), and a local variety of English called Pichi (commonly used in the region around Malabo).

The unique language contact situation of Spanish in Equatorial Guinea; its historical, political and sociolinguistic background; and the specific contexts of language acquisition have shaped the Equatoguinean variety of Spanish over the centuries. With my research, I wish to highlight the relevance of Equatorial Guinea within the studies about the Spanish language, and to improve our knowledge about the Equatoguinean Spanish as well as about the language attitudes of its speakers.

Mercado Central, Malabo

(photo S. Schlumpf, 2019)

Playa de Moaba, Bioko Sur

(photo S. Schlumpf, 2019)

Baby turtle, Playa de Moraka, Bioko Sur

(photo S. Schlumpf, 2019)

Skyline of Bata

(photo S. Schlumpf, 2022)

Village of Aseng (Niefang, Río Muni)

(photo S. Schlumpf, 2022)

Interior of Río Muni

(photo S. Schlumpf, 2022)