Commission to save Guernsey French is 'last chance saloon'

A NEW commission to promote Guernesiais is the ‘last chance saloon’ to get it right, islanders who have worked to protect the language have said.

Jan Marquis

A NEW commission to promote Guernesiais is the ‘last chance saloon’ to get it right, islanders who have worked to protect the language have said.

The Guernsey Language Commission was launched a few weeks ago and L’Assembllaie d’Guernesiaise president Fred Gallion thought it was a good idea, as if the island’s unique language was lost then Guernsey could become just like ‘any old place’. ‘There is a lot of enthusiasm. Culture and Leisure is putting in a lot of work so clearly it does not think it is time or money wasted.

‘There is no reason why it cannot be done. This was needed 20 or 30 years ago. The point of getting it done now is to retain the pronunciation.’

He explained the commission would run into opposition, but the recent reprinting and selling of 500 copies of a Guernesiais dictionary shows the interest is there.

Former States language officer Jan Marquis, 44, (pictured) said the commission is the ‘best chance ever’ of saving the language. ‘The first 12 months will be a challenge, but the team seem to be dynamic so they stand a good chance.

Comments for: "Commission to save Guernsey French is 'last chance saloon'"

Le Andre

Look to Monaco`s initiative in protecting and saving their native language, Monegasque, as a template for Guernsiais.


Can we really afford this nonsense? What is the point of preserving an obscure variant of French. The same effort devoted to cultivating theuse of French, (the language used by Guernsey's culltivated elite) would at least have some value.

Would someone detail the costs involved in this misplaced lingustic effort?


A total waste of effort and money. I don't mind the effort bit but I do very much mind the money part if it means a single penny from the public purse being put into this utterly pointless, doomed exercise. May as well just flush it down the toilet.

guern abroad

Plently projects already do that with no gain to the island at many times the cost, let's see we probably spent ten fold this exercise on the consultants spent on that harbour proposal.

This is not about you as an individual but what is right for the Island and it's culture for the future.


All very well if the project has any chance of success whatsoever but this one has zilch chance of success and is therefore a complete and utter waste of MY taxpayer £ -although presumably not yours guern ABROAD?

Are you willing to put your mouth where my £ are and learn this terminally ill lingo to help keep it going? No, I thought not.

This is simply throwing good money after bad. Employing the guy in the photo as 'States language officer' on 30k a year plus was absolute waste of money. What makes you think that throwing more of our cash at a jumped up quango called The Guernsey Language Commission will produce a different result?

guern abroad

We will agree to differ because that harbour birth will not happen and that I would expect is more then this cost.

I agree that a dedicated employee is probably over the top unless they are actually the walking talking teacher who will also run classes etc.

I do have the latest dictionary.

Never assume as you could have been retired and pay no tax and I could be paying tax.


Is "Gallion" the correct spelling of this guy's name?

Oh the irony if it isn't...............


Hilarious and well spotted. I'm 99 per cent sure it's meant to be Gallienne. Either way they are peeing against a force 10 wind.


Would rather learn proper French, it's far more useful in this world than a doomed language that isn't even spoken in the island by many people let alone anywhere abroad.

guern abroad

I hope this has every chance of sucesss. There is an important need to retain character and culture that sets the Island apart, all good for belonging, tourism and community pride.


No chance whatsoever.

Neville Falla

Rustylink et Martino vos bavaï coum aen pitt-à-purin!

If we'd continued all speaking Gsy F as well as Eng then the UK would be treating us differently. Bilingualism did wonders for our trade in the past as we could trade with both the uk and France. Now we're basically English (presumably you're happy with that concept) the UK know they can pretty much do with us as they want as we've no get out of jail free card as we can't even communicate with our nearest neighbour. Language is the key identifier of any culture and community; and this initiative has far reaching benefits that, if successful, will provide an invaluable insurance policy for protecting our community and way of life that has been built on a foundation of bilingualism..



Je parle francais, io parlo Italiano. Two proper, living languages. I'm all for biligualism or trilingualism but not with a dying language that is all but extinct.

Neville Falla

At home we always spoke Eng and Guernsey French and learning French was a tiny step. On the basis that French is a small step away from Gsy French wouldn't it be great to instill some cultural identity by promoting the language and then using that as a stepping stone to improving trade and tourism links with Europe? After all there are many Italian words that are common with Gsy French.

In fact someone like you with an obvious interest in language would be an ideal person to help the commission. Fancy the challenge?


Certamente no!

Neville, you are living in the past, I am in the present. 30 or 40 years ago I might have agreed with you but as becks so ably points out below there is no future in Guernsey French. It is dead, c'est mort, e morta. How many languages do you want it in?


Face it, Guernsey French is dead. It is (was) a language for a gentler, more rural Guernsey. As for its similarity to French, that would be like me talking in Chaucerian Old English and expecting you to understand me. What's Guernsey French for computer, fibreglass, plasma screen, any number of modern day items that are traded? Or do you want to stick to buying and selling root vegetables?



Don`t be a total plonker, if you`re that keen on having another language to negotiate in then LEARN ONE THAT IS CURRENT IN THE WORLD.

What is the point in learning a language that nobody understands except perhaps two 90 year old codgers talking about the good old days over a half of mild in The L`Eree Hotel public bar?

Hardly international commerce is it?

Neville Falla

The Isle of Mann has used their language to great effect to help set the island apart from the UK and it has been instrumental in establishing their identity and their quasi autonomy - and thereby contributing to the continued success of their finance industry. It's not about the language per se but about the identity it creates.

guern abroad

Agree with all that you have written Neville Falla.

It is the bigger picture of what having such a strong identity might bring.

Being so associated with the UK by speaking only english makes Guernsey appear to be a UK Island and not an Island in it's own right, hence all the recent trampling on.

It could work, it has worked elsewhere.

Where it might struggle is Guernsey now has so much influx that is there enough people to take interest and see the gain versus why bother we are english anyway.

Guernsey is not the UK, though there is much arround now to make you think otherwise due to the creep of UK suburia.

Mon Vier

looks like some people would rather be living in Guernseyshire then here!

Cor damme la, they spends enough on these consultants to tell us how we should live but when it comes to our language its all, oh no who wants that.

Let me tell you, I do! I would rather my taxes went to my heritage than to the usual rubbish it gets spent on.

This should have been done years ago after the war, then we would still have our language.


I tend to agree with you, becks, but I do in part concur with guern abroad's idea as retaining the traditional Guernsey Patois would help to sustain some degree of quaintness, which, on some occasions, is fitting for a small island such as Guernsey.

Davey West

People do follow defunct but interesting, days gone by skills like restoring steam trains, tapestry and on a small island in the cold of winter should a person wish in their own time follow and learn an irrelevant language which will not get them work, isolate them from the english speaking community, that is their choice.

Freedom of choice is a corner stone of society, however in my opinion

learning to speak Jersey or Guernsey french should be a hobby, it is no longer essential. Unlike the funding of nurses or front line workers. If there is any extra cash in the States budget, spend it on todays world and needy islanders not yesterdays fast fading language that few want to or need to understand.


guern abroad

Needy there may be but there is also a heck of a lot of self destruct situations that has caused the needy rise.

pb falla

Noapte Buna

Sarnia cherie, my heart longs for thee

Pb, how do you say another Guernsey shambles in patois?!

pb falla

Anothersia guernsia enshamlesia compost corner


Yes I agree Becks what is the point of learning Guernsey patois, I would prefer to spend the time and money on teaching English, grammar and spelling in particular, as I feel that proper English is going to be lost to text speak. gr8.


let me think, what else can we spend our money on, Airport, done, Police, done, Harbour,almost done, oh good another one Guernsey French.

That will do nicely.

Next !!


Ch`est atour le tradition de par ichin. Perd-t-il et nous searais douache et la mesme coum Les Angllais.


Spend the money of teaching our children Mandarin Chinese, I guarantee it will be much more useful than a dead language no one cares about.


Raise the Clameur de Haro and stop this nonsense, hang on a minute tho I gotta learn it first, ah err when's the class start?


People need to split the economic and cultural value in the discussion. Economically of course there is no value. Culturally a huge loss to our Island.

As far as I understand the Guernsey Language Commission is there to facilitate and support those people on the ground who are teaching in a hobbiest capacity.

If with some assistance it expands the interest in the language, then it's no bad thing.

Don't worry it won't be on the curriculum next year.

Sarnia cherie, my heart longs for thee

Everyweek I look at the island FM patois phrase of the week but very little sinks in, I do enjoy being at the rockmount on a friday and declairing " J'suis futu!"

But yes I would go out of my way to learn more.


Stonedecroze - Le Clameur est en Francais, pas Guernsiais


Cor damme la.... and there was me thinking I'd made a tongue in cheek quip......another one over the head eh?

I am Deer

So which local language is to be saved?

There were variations depending on the Parish you lived in.

It's all well and good wanting to preserve this language but English is a far more useful language in this day and age.

There is little point in spending loads of money on this. If people want to learn it, they can. I could learn it from my Grandmother but that would get me no extra job prospects or qualifications.

It's the equivalent of speaking Klingon.

The Man

I succesfully chatted a girl up in Klingon.

True story.

Although my translataions were wrong, when I told her I had said "your hair looks lovely" in Klingon, what I had actually said was "Today is a good day to die"

Still, she was none the wiser.

Maybe we should teach Patois to our young, so they can sucessfully use it to chat up tourists, or when they are away! Or just buy a Klingon dictionary, worked for me!!

Oh Dear

In that case I'm all for it.

Since the tourists would have no idea, perhaps it would be just as easy to make stuff up.

"Ampiglu le gratchet avirot de jumbun?"

"Would you like to stroke my face?"


Seems to me to be flogging a dead horse. I speak French and Italian like Martino, and can get by in Guernsey-French having heard it from my Grandparents, but there's few people left to speak it to. The language is consigned to being a hobby or of academic interest now. I rarely hear it spoken these days, it has been eclipsed by Polish, Latvian and Portugese in the shops and on the streets.


Good that people want to keep our native language alive but I am not optimistic. Patois was my grandparents first language - these days my kids don't even have much of a Guernsey accent.

Patois was dying out before the war and made a resurgence during the occupation (because the Germans couldn't understand it). Whe the evacuees (like my parents) returned to the island after 5 years they had lost their native language and many considered patois to be provincial and "a bit common".

Since then it has been in steady decline and is now so rarely heard that I cannot see it being of any practical use to anyone (unlike Welsh, for example, where enough people actively used the language to allow it to be revitalised).

I applaud the people dedicated to keeping the language alive but I cannot see it ever becoming commonly used again and I suspect it will disappear altogether in the next generation. It will be a very sad day when it does.


First of all we should be teaching our children to speak English, and only when they have accomplished this to a high standard,encourage them to move on to other languages which may be of use to them in their future life.

Guernsey Patois is little more than Slang.Fine as a hobby, but of no practical use anywhere else in the world.Much better the time spent on teaching other subjects such as Maths,French,Spanish,or life skills subjects such as 'Budgeting'and'Cooking.'


Regardless of how many useful/real/alive languages you speak, you can't deny that it would be huge cultural loss for the island to see the language truly die. As a student of linguistics, I understand that efforts to save the language would be for academic and cultural purposes rather than for practical use. Is that really a bad thing? This isn't a new idea at all, many languages with a small base of native speakers are making attempts to preserve their languages across the world.


I agree, but I think any notion of Guernesais ever being anyone's first language is doomed to failure. Frankly, the language has foundered upon a sea of local indifference.

Also, with reference to the idea that it would help our trading links with France, I recall that my Guernsey-French-speaking grandfather was pretty much unintelligible to French people, except for those who spoke the now-dying Gallo dialect.


No I agree that the idea that it could be the first language of the island again is pretty much impossible, that ship sailed a long time ago. I think the most viable option to preserve the language would be too make it more accessible rather than any attempt to force it back into common usage.

I'm not 100% sure of the source any more, but I do remember hearing that although some dialects of Guernsey French could be read with a degree of understanding by some of our more linguistically adept French cousins, the spoken variants are obviously much less easier to understand due to regional accents etc. I believe that the relationship Guernesiais has to French is similar to our own understanding of late Middle English.

I think that it is good to see, even on a discussion thread that people still have plenty of opinions on the language, good or bad.