7th February 2013

Guernsey Language Commission formed

Guernsey’s native language, Guernesiais, can trace its roots back to Norman French, and would once have been understood across great swathes of England and France.

That’s no longer the case. At the turn of the millennium, only 2% of Guernsey’s population spoke Guernesiais fluently, and things were set to get worse: just 0.1% of young people on the island had any fluency. If nothing was done, Guernesiais would die out.

Rescue plan

The States of Guernsey announced the formation of the Guernsey Language Commission on 7 February 2013 in an effort to save Guernesiais from extinction. Its remit was to raise awareness and support existing Guernesiais groups.

Darren Duquemin, of the Culture and Leisure Department, outlined the plan to form the Commission at a public meeting at Beau Sejour. He had been made political champion of Guernesiais the previous year, and spent time studying other endangered languages Jerriais, the language of Jersey, which like Guernesiais has roots in ancient French, was, he said, in a far better condition than Guernesiais.

Formed as part of the Strategic Plan, the Commission is funded by donations and a grant from the States. As such, its existence is part of a larger strategy to promote Guernsey’s culture and history. It officially came into being on Liberation Day, 9 May 2013.

Language revival

Guernesiais content rarely appears in the print or broadcast media. As with many endangered languages, this could be one of the biggest threats to its continued existence. English is prevalent, and until the end of the Second World War, French – not Guernsey French – was the official language.

However, thanks in part to the efforts of the Language Commission, there are now regular Guernesiais events. Some schools also host lessons teaching the basics. Self-study books are available covering the basic of the language, and classics like Marie De Garis’ Dictiounnaire Angllais-Guernesiais remain essential texts.


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Other events that occured in February

Mail ship wrecked on Black Rock 1st
Oil rig stranded at Grandes Rocques
Birth of Generaloberst Friedrich Dollmann 2nd
Death of Sir Charles Hayward 3rd
St Martin’s parish church consecrated 4th
Guernsey suffers its worst storm in 35 years 5th
Guernsey watchmaker helps Stone of Scone manhunt 6th
Guernsey Language Commission formed 7th
Queen Mary executed while wearing Guernsey stockings 8th
Guernsey gets its first postbox
Guernsey Society celebrates its 70th anniversary 9th
Guernsey’s last execution didn’t go according to plan 10th
The last issue of GUNS was distributed 11th
Alderney gets its first full-time radio station 12th
Guernsey’s last duel 13th
Specsavers’ Mary Perkins was born 14th
Blue Islands takes to the skies
Guernsey gets its own flag 15th
Birth of concrete poet Dom Sylvester Houedard 16th
HMS Guernsey launched in Aberdeen 17th
Guernsey’s first Methodist minister arrives 18th
Aurigny Air Services founded 19th
Guernsey Railway Company runs its first services 20th
The Channel Islands were cut off from the outside world 21st
St Sampson was ordained a bishop 22nd
Death of Thomas Fiott de Havilland 23rd
Murder inquiry ends with suicide 24th
Death of occupation resister Marie Ozanne 25th
Guernsey’s first banker dies 26th
Release of Reverend Harry Samuel 27th
Plans for St Sampson power station approved 28th
Second World War bomb detonated 29th