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.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I've joined the Guernésiais Facebook Page!

Today I've joined the Guernésiais Facebook page.  It hasn't been very active and there aren't many members.  Like me, those who have posted have an interest in learning the language, but are having trouble finding resources.  In my post I mentioned the BBC Archive of Guernsey French lessons with the voice recordings and the Grammatical Survey by De Garis, and I asked if anyone knew of any other available resources.

Over a month ago, I asked a librarian at my university to help me locate Marie De Garis' Dictiounnaire Angllais-Guernésiais .  There is one on reserve at another campus (a 5 hour drive from here), but the librarian said she would check with other universities in Canada and the US, if need be, to see if there was a copy available to loan.  This dictionary is quite rare and the latest edition was published in 1982, so I haven't been holding my breath...I should go in and check on the status anyways though.

While trying to find a photo of the the Dictiounnaire Angllais-Guernesiais, I came across a much older Dictionnaire franco-normand (1870) by Georges Métivier.  The book is available online from google books and after reading the first few pages I found that Métivier has focused on the Guernsey dialect!  The word collection, as he calls it, is written in French, and he makes linguistic observations and links many words to Celtic, Teutonic (Germanic), and Roman origins. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Package from Guernsey Part II!

Oh dearie me!  Just received the actual book I ordered from the Société Guernesiais - Guernesiais: A Grammatical Survey by Marie De Garis (1983) (There was a bit of a mix up ealier, read previous post here).