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.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Guernsey Connections ;)

So I worked up the nerve to ask a few question about Guernesiais to the very nice lady from La Société Guernesiaise who messed up and then fixed my book order (see previous post here).  I commended her on her genial customer service, and then went on and asked her what experience she has with the language... She replied promptly, as she always does, and said she doesn't speak Guernesiais herself, but she had forwarded my email to the Société's secretary of history and philosophy.  This gentleman, Mr. G., happens to be a fluent speaker and considers Guernesiais his first language.  His relatively short email to me was full of information.  He attached his two part article about the importance of Guernesiais that he had written for the Société in 2004 (the first part I had already purchased a few weeks back for 1£ hehe).  The article covers: the state of endangerment of Guernesiais, the history of this unique dialect of Norman French, and how vital it is to the island's culture and identity.  In his email he tells me that since the publication of the article, Guernesiais is now being taught on a voluntary basis in a number of primary schools during lunch hours and after school to about 100 children.  In my reply to Mr. G., I mention how thrilled I am to hear that children are now being given the opportunity to access and appreciate their language!  Mr. G. ends his email with a book recommendation.  He suggests Dr. Harry Tomlinson's "A Descriptive Grammar of Guernsey French (2008)".  After an extensive google search I have not been able to find an online vendor, so in my reply I also asked if he knew how I may be able to get my hands on a copy. 

On a side not, I do believe Dr. Tomlinson may be related (perhaps married) to Hazel Tomlinson who is the language consultant and voice of the BBC Learn a Bit of Guernsey French lessons that I've been practicing with!

Here is the flag of Guernsey - just to brighten up this post ;)

The red cross is the Cross of St George and the gold cross represents Guernsey's past under Normandy rule.  The gold cross is from a banner that William the Conquerer flew. (From BBC - History).

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