Island Life   

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Language


Guernsey patois is based on Norman French, but like many regional dialects, it is in danger of dying out. Generally only older residents and a handful of enthusiasts still use the language. Until the Second World War, English was hardly spoken but the evacuation of half of the island's population to England ended centuries of tradition. Many children returned to Guernsey not knowing the patois.

A number of books and  a dictionary have been published together with tape recordings. Some would like to see the language taught in schools, but so far this has not been practical. However Guernseyman Keith Le Cheminant wants to change all that and has been in touch with Headmaster Ron Depres at La Hougette Primary school. Mr Depres has said that he is willing for the school to pilot a Guernsey patois course outside of normal school lessons. The organisation Les Ravigotteurs has been putting together a syllabus for children aged eight to ten.

Mr Le Cheminant believes that less than 1,000 people now speak the native  tongue and most are over fifty apart from himself and a couple of others. The College of Further Education at one stage ran a course on the patois but was cancelled due to low numbers. The Scots and Welsh have gone to considerable lengths to keep their languages alive and he believes that Guernsey should do likewise. Ultimately only teaching in schools would turn the situation around. See his thoughts on L’éspérance et le désepé

Local street names and family surnames are evidence of the island's Norman French roots but increasingly only English names are used which is a great shame as part of our heritage is being lost forever.

In July 2011, Harry & Hazel Tomlinson, both ex-school teachers published a new book entitled 'Conversations in Guernsey-French'. 1000 copies of the 86 page book have been printed and consist of 40 lessons featuring Guernsey-French simple phonetics and English. The couple have spent the past nine years voluntarily  teaching the language in primary schools along with other dedicated volunteers. By the 40th lesson, Mrs Tomlinson said should be able to hold simple conversation in Guernsey-French. The idea of the book stemmed from the series they did with BBC Radio Guernsey.

  • L’éspérance et désepé
    L’éspérance et désepé
  • Hope & Despair
    Hope & Despair - Guernsey patois Guernseyman Keith Le Cheminant is doing his bit to actively encourage the survival of Guernsey patois. Below are a few thoughts on 'L’éspérance et le désepé' - 'Hope and Despair':

Useful Links

Guernsey Patois words

 
 
 
 
 
 

  

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