What is Guernésiais?

What is Guernesiais? Guernesiais used to be the primary language that was spoken on Guernsey, one of the British Channel Islands. It is also known as Dguernesiais, Guernsey French, Guernsey Norman French, and Patois, French for dialect. It is now considered to be an endangered language since less than 2% of the population of Guernsey are able to speak Guernesiais fluently, and most of these speakers are over the age of 50. The language is no longer being taught to children, and English has become the dominant language on the island. Some of the reasons for this language change are trade and tourism with Britain, and impacts from WWII, such as the evacuation of Guernsey children to Britain during the German occupation. If you'd like to learn more about the history of Guernesiais, here is a link to Julia Sallabank's BBC article.

This blog is where I will record my progress and challenges in my attempt to learn Guernesiais.

Friday, November 11, 2011

BBC Archive - Learn a Bit of Guernsey French

Today I spent some time on the BBC website where they have a Learn Guernsey section archived from 2005.  There's about 40 lessons each consisting of 6-10 exchanges in a short dialogue.  I've noticed that many of them begin with comments about the weather and then continue with more day to day exchanges, such as inviting someone for tea or talking about a recent holiday.  The lessons have the exchange written first in Guernesiais and then the English translation written below it.  There is also a rudimentary pronunciation hint included in parenthesis.

What's really great about these lessons is that there are sound files available for each dialogue. This allows you to listen and follow along with the written dialogue. First a Guernesiais woman speaks a sentence, then there is a short pause (this is where I try and repeat ;)), and then a British women says it in English. The Guernesiais is fairly slow and the woman articulates well. I can only assume that it would be spoken much more quickly when spoken naturally. In fact, I think I've read recently somewhere in the in the mountain of articles on Guernsey I have accumulated that Guernsey people do speak quite quickly. I find the intonation of the woman's speech on the sound clips interesting though, and it may be quite authentic.
What is slightly annoying about the the sound clips though is that they don't play well on any of the computers I've tried. They are .ram (which I think means they are realaudio). Anyways, they do not allow me to pause and I often have to reload the file. Also, some of the files also sound as though the ladies become posessed at the end of the lesson (voices are fastforwarded or played in reverse?) which may be due to corrupted file or perhaps a problem in my download.

My goal for the day was just to go through a few of the lessons and get used to the pronunciation of the language. I'm going to see if I can convert the files into another format so I can play and pause them at my leisure ;)

Also, as a preliminary impression, I'm finding Guernesiais very similar to French, which was to be expected since it is also known as Guernsey French and Norman French.  After repeating a set of Guernesiais expressions with a headset on, my husband, who can converse pretty well in Quebecois French, would ask if I were talking about pancakes (guern: crêpes) or sugar (guern: chucre). 

Still no word from La Société Guernesiais about my book order mix up. Now it's a weekend, so I probably won't hear back until Monday.

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