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
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
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.
Guernsey Patois words