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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I must be getting behind the times or something, but it never occurred to me to check youtube for videos of people speaking Guernesiais (Shout out to Suzanne! Merci!)  After a wee bit of video hopping on youtube, I found this video to be most to my liking.

From the description under the video, which is written in Guernesiais, I think it is saying that this video was taken at the Sark Folk Festival in July 2011, and the man in the video is Jan Marquis who is telling us about Guernesiais.  From my prior research on Guernesiais, I've found that Jan Marquis is the language development officer on Guernsey since 2008.  The position is newly created and gives him the responsibility to promote and preserve the Guernesiais language.  In this video, I really enjoy his short lesson on useful Guernsey French expressions for festival goers.  Also, I appreciate hearing another person's pronunciation, especially a man's voice, since so far I've only been listening to the one lady's voice on the Learn a Bit of Guernsey French from the BBC website.

Something that struck me right away when viewing this clip was how young this speaker is.  Most of what I've read about Guernesiais has mentioned that only the aging elderly are still speaking the language.  Seeing this young man speak Guernesiais today is not only uplifting, but it has made the language very relevant in my mind.  I didn't know until watching this present-day video that I've been picturing this language as being a bit dusty and brown around the edges.  Though, I'm not sure if he's a fluent speaker or a second language learner, but either way hearing him speak Guernesiais makes my heart glow :)  I also really enjoy the handpainted posters blowing around him.  It looks as though he's had some help from children, perhaps? :D

A la perchoine!

PS Ahaha! I just noticed that there is an English translation under the youtube video description. At least I know I got the gist of it ;) Yay, me.


  1. I found many of the words easy to understand. He sounded like he has quite a British accent. Is Guernesiais quite that British sounding? I just mean his intonation does not really have a french sort of rhythm to it. I noticed words and phrases close to the French: "J'aime la musique" "bonjour" "A la prochaine" "Je vourdrais"...

    A good background studying French would help someone out a lot studying Guernesais I would imagine.

  2. Hey Kathryn,

    Please read my recent post entitled "Guernesiais' link to French" where I've tried to address your comments!

    Thanks for commenting, I appreciate you input :)

  3. Hi there! I made the handwritten posters behind the (fluent) speaker, Yan.
    Get in touch if you'd like to learn more about the language - www.museums.gov.gg