Language commission to be formed

GUERNSEY’S own language is to be the focus of an intense and organised effort to ingrain it into local society over the coming years.

Darren Duquemin

GUERNSEY’S own language is to be the focus of an intense and organised effort to ingrain it into local society over the coming years.

Culture and Leisure Department member Darren Duquemin, pictured, gave a presentation to around 70 members of the public last night in which he outlined how this would be achieved and why it was important.

‘The States Strategic Plan says the government of Guernsey aims to improve the island’s unique cultural heritage and identity.

‘We are here to preserve our culture, and I think the number of people attending is a fantastic indication of the importance of why we are here.’

Deputy Duquemin was made the ‘political champion’ of Guernesiaise last year and said since then he has been busy learning from other jurisdictions in similar situations. He explained that in Jersey its local language was far more prevalent in society than Guernsey’s – something he intended to change.

Comments for: "Language commission to be formed"

Le Viaer

Aurapreume! Bouanne chance Mess Duquemin

Island Wide Voting

With you all the way as long as this is treated as a voluntary after school 'hobby' subject and not shoe horned into a packed school curriculum


What a waste of time, typical Guernsey, back to the future !

Davey West

Jersey spent hundreds of thousands for children to learn Jersey french, in order not to let the dialect die a death. Bit like Welsh really

Terrific value for money for the taxpayers the loonies will preach, and of course will help you run your business, yes madam lets speak in a different language.

For goodness sake get real.

If people want to study hobbies in their private life like lost language great, if they want to get on in the world then learn modern skills, for a modern ever changing and demanding job placement. By the way you will be in a long cue.

I lost out because I spent wasted time on a lost language.


guern abroad

Not wasted effort at all. A candidate who had a second language, what ever the language, shows aptitude to study and learn.


I agree, but personally I'd rather my daughter learned Mandarin or Arabic than Patois. I think IWV above has the right of it.


Coulden't agree more with Davey - waste of taxpayers money. A hobby - fine - but no taxpayer funding at all. Just have to look at Canada / Wales / Ireland to see what a drain on resource this is. Whatever next Language Police?

St Marcouf

An intense organised effort is pathetic, the preservation of the language needs to be legislated for by means of a gradual and universal reintroduction of it which is strictly enforced.

In Quebec, French is by law the official language of the government and the courts and it is the normal and habitual language of the workplace, instruction, communications, commerce and business.

I remember a huge row recently because a Canadian supermarket chain called Metro refused to frenchify its name in Quebec to Métro and change its signs and logo accordingly - that's how seriously the Quebecois take it.

Unfortunately, with so many of our deputies coming from such diverse places as Scotland, Wales, London, Liverpool and Newcastle, there will be little interest in legislating for the protection of the island's language and culture.

Even the National Trust of Guernsey has modelled itself on and named itself after a British cultural institution which has nothing to do with Guernsey.


We live in Calvados and apart from a few academics in Caen there is little interest in preserving or encouraging speakers of Norman-French, a language closely allied to Guernsey-French. It seems these old Norman languages are soon going to die out.


If Guernsey Norman French was a patient it would be aged 99, riddled with cancer and heart disease and on life support. Time to put it out of its misery. Not worth spending another penny on.


My Gran and Grandpa spoke patios to each other and if they wanted to say something they did not want us to hear, but they never wanted us to learn patois, they taught my father french and he travelled the world and said french was very useful to him. I cannot see the point of teaching our children an archaic language in school when some of the children can barely use correct grammar and spell correctly, really what use is patois going to be in the future. Fine if they want to learn it as a hobby after school but not as another lesson.

I love Guernsey and I am all for traditions and Guernsey values and would even cope with the old Guernsey ways, but in my opinion this is a big no no.


My Grandparents spoke Patois, and my Father grew up using it instead of English. He can hardly speak a word of it these days.

The reason it has almost died out is because it isn't useful or relevant anymore. It hasn't been for many years, otherwise my Father would still speak it.

If people want to keep it alive as a hobby that's fine with me. However if the States of Guernsey spend money on this then it's most definitely not fine with me. There are many USEFUL things that need money spent on them.

As time goes by parts of our culture die out, to be replaced with things that are better, or more useful. Perhaps Culture and Leisure should also help resurrect Furze ovens in every home, sails on all ships, dolmen building, horses or donkeys as main transport, using flint instead of metal for knives, identifying witches and burning them on the stake, belief in fairies, compulsory archery lessons after church...


Totally agree with your comments valeite and Snoopy and I think they represent the views of the vast majority. Can we look forward to seeing Darren Duquemin and Mike o'Hara putting their mouths where our money is and learning this dead lingo for themselves?

No, I didn't think so!


Sorry to tell you this Dr Duquemin, but your patient, the Guernsey patois, is dead.

Forty years ago you might have had a chance but even then it was mostly used by old dears as a sort of secret pig-latin, so young folk, incomers and visitors couldn't tell they were talking about them.

Yes, preserve the language, but do so where it belongs, in a museum, where people can still look up old words and placenames to see what they used to mean. Don't waste money and our children's school time by going down the Welsh route. Olde Englyshe could be considered a seperate language to modern English but you don't see it being taught as such. Only scholars of old texts have any need to study it. The same applies to the Norman dialects.

Instead, put a bit more effort into teaching our children to spell and write their first language properly and a lot more effort into teaching USEFUL second languages. How many of our children currently leave school with a reasonable geasp of (modern) French? A very small minority, I would guess.


When many of our more senior students are unable to converse in our own language to a high standard, what is the point in wasting valuable shool time in learning another? Unless, it is spoken by millions of others worlwide,such as, Spanish,French,Mandarin,etc.


One minute we are being told that twitter and facebook are the way forward which I believe it probably is, people are cemented to their i pads these days, the next thing we are being told our kids should learn patois, well I am sure if they twittered in patois they would get a few choice replies mon vien.A definite no no for me, I am not at all into facebook and twitters but millions are and if there was a choice to learn patois or technology there is no contest.

St Marcouf

The comments here demonstrate that, sadly, the island is full of philistines who care little about its quirks of history and uniqueness.

Perhaps this latest push will change that even though it doesn't go far enough. I'd far rather see money spent on this than, e.g., promoting football in the island.


St Marcouf, I do care about the history of Guernsey. Because it was no longer relevant or useful, Patois is now pretty much history.

The point being made is that it is not useful enough to spend taxpayers money on.

Quebec is a poor example. French is their main language, and most importantly it's a widely used language around the world. The enforced use of Patois would be absolutely crazy...I'm not sure that you are even being serious to be honest!


So tell us St Marcouf, what use will it be for kids when they leave school, where will it take them, how will it help them?.... especially when no one other than a Guernsey person will understand it ?.

Now if they learnt Chinese that would come in very useful, Being that China is becoming, or is, the biggest industrial powers of the World.


St M, Assuming your are not already a "parleur" of patois, why don't you take one of the existing opportunities to learn, if you feel so strongly about preserving it? Or do you just like the vague idea that someone else will preserve it?

I think you'll find that most of us philistines are not against the patois being continued by dedicated and, more importantly, willing participants. forcing the learning of a quirky, interesting but frankly useless dialest on our children is another matter, as is the spending of our taxes on doing so.

What next? will all the road signs have to be in patois as well as English? what about modern words that don't exist in this ancient tongue? Will we have the farcical situation where they will be adopted from English or French by "Guernsifying" the spelling, like the Welsh language extremists do with English words?


St Marcouf - I agree with your comments, and the point you raise in your post no. 7 above para 4 is very close to the truth. But it is not just the states, it is our industry and every aspect of island life that has succumbed and become anglophiled. This has been going on for many years but has picked up pace since the 80's. It was not that long ago when court documents, property deeds and language was Norman French first, English second but the influx of English peoples has determined our future. I doubt there is a way back.


West, I think you'll find that court documents and laws were written in French, not the Norman dialect. A few old laws are still in French.


I believe you are correct and I should of elaborated further. It was the principle I was trying to set out.

floyd gacsy

go darrin go


Believe me St Marcouf I am a very old fashioned person and lived with my dear Gran and Grandpa who spoke patois so have been through it all,being told, many times if I had lived during the war I would have been pleased to eat that extra potato, to how they went to chapel in a horse and cart. Please do not call me a phillistine because I would be the first person to be able to go back to "old" Guernsey, but the world has changed, travel has got easier, youngsters travel to far off places that we would never have dreamed of going, so I cannot see the point in teaching patois. I am just being a realist and do not think it at all beneficial to learn a language that is all but lost.

I love listening to it spoken, but I would rather hear my grandson speak French or German even rather than some archaic language that he would only use on Euchre nights.

sarnia expat

Comment 14 - spot on. Lets concentrate on teaching our children to read, write and speak correct English first - and then start on another language other than Chavespeak.


I am a Norman from the Continent. I realise here (if the comments reflect really the peoples' mind) that Guernsey is culturally (and mentally) dying from the very same disease that made Normandy become a flavourless colony of France : pragmatism, materialism, conformism, lack of fighting spirit. Guernsey people could not or did not want to struggle against the English cultural domination, and became simply an English colony, not yet fully flavourless, but right on the way. On the very same way as this planetary utopia with a single language want to make us these grey, standardised, flavourless, "world citizens" (for the seek of business: better market when 10 billion people consume Coca-Cola). Pragmatism can kill a culture. We have seen that on the Continent. Be aware.

If you cannot rescue your language (which existed nearly 500 years before modern French and English which are both "patois" of the Norman language), at least, try (if it is not too mentaly exhausting) to rescue the very last remains of specificities you have, unless your dream is to ressemble London people (or Paris if you prefer: not better).

St Marcouf

I agree wholeheartedly with your insight. Guernsey is of course one of the last vestiges of the Duchy of Normandie but you would never know it.


I can speak Guernésiais and I am proud of it, I learnt it as a child from my Parents and Grandparents. I can also speak 'Good French' and I know that the fact that I knew and understood lé Guernésiais helped me no end to learn and speak French. I know some words are not the same in Guernésiais as they are in French but the tenses certainly do help. I am now teaching my grandchild of five and a half lé Guernésiais and he certainly enjoys it. I am also teaching him songs, some of which I have translated and others that I have made up in Guernésiais. I think young children benefit from learning it at a very young age, it WILL help later to learn French believe me.



Well that is fine but I cannot see the point of teaching good french and patois, when are they going to use patois. Years ago school had the basic subjects and little else, now they have so much to fill their little minds,I certainly would not want my grandchildren having to learn patois to the detriment of a valuable subject, even cooking would be more useful than patois. Not everyone is good at languages, let them do that as a hobby, but as for deputies getting involved oh pleeeeese.