Xavier Kreiss, a guest blogger at Naked Translations, has an interesting post on “The languages of Guernsey.” It starts off:

My mother is a Guernseywoman, and I’ve known and loved Guernsey all my life. The Channel Islands have always held a particular attraction for me – I’m a half-British Frenchman, which probably explains the affinity between myself and those “pieces of France fallen into the sea and picked up by England”, to quote the famous words of Victor Hugo, who spent many years in the archipelago as a political exile. He was fascinated by the local Norman-French dialect, or “djernesiais”, an ancient vernacular that dates back to the days of the Norman conquest.

And it continues with “a highly unofficial bit of potted history” and discussion of the patois (and its near-disappearance), the literature, the law, and the names: “Le Cheminant, Le Page, Le Patourel, Duquemin (pronounced dook-min), Mauger (prononced Major)…” Interesting stuff.


  1. There’s just been discussion of Guernsey on the American Name Society’s mailing list. Someone referred to Henry David Thoreau as being of French Canadian ancestry. (A discussion of possibly-offensive team names included “Canucks”.) Turns out that his Thoreau ancestors were from Guernsey.

  2. Some Dgèrnésiais literature is also available from the Société Jersiaise website:
    And for a Guernsey view of relations between the two Bailiwicks:

  3. Ah! I was about to point to Geraint’s site.

  4. Xavier Kreiss says

    Your blog, which is fascinating, is doing me a great honour by mentioning my amateurish overview of the Channel Islands patois. If I have contributed in any way to stimulating an interest in them, I’m delighted.
    Re: Thoreau: it seems that at least one branch of the family is of Jersey origin, see:

  5. Thanks for thinking of me, Jimmy!
    For those whose curiosity remains unassuaged, a recent CD “Les Travailleurs de la Mer”, songs in Dgèrnésiais, is available – clips can be listened to online from Amazon:

  6. michael shepherd says

    Investigating the names of Normans and their place of origin (de Mandeville, Courcon etc) who settled in England in the invasion of 1066, I realised the close (and now obvious) connection between Cornish (there’s a brief dictionary now on the net) and Breton. That’s as far as I took it, but I guess anyone interested in the Channel Islands should take this on board.

  7. marcus tedde says

    im 16 and i live in guernsey and have lived here all my life, i was born at queen elizabeth hospital in 1989 and i am really interested in guernsey french, the only problem is it isnt taught in schools and is slowly dying out unfortunately 🙁 a lot of my mates really want to learn it as well because we do not want it to die out, i am hoping that someone from the council in guernsey will see this and put guernsey french in schoools forward, thankyou marcus

  8. Are you listening, Guernsey Council? These kids actually want to learn a language—why not help them out?

  9. Maria Tedde says

    Hi, I am so keen to learn Guernsey French and always listen to Radio Guernsey on a Saturday morning so i can hear the news in Guernsey French. An old work colleague of mine was teaching me when our shop was closed and I think it is so so important to keep this language alive. It is part of our heritage and we should not be allowed to lose it. This is coming from a 19 year old and seeing as we are the future of our Island, i think the young people should have a say. Kids learn so much quicker when they’re young so even if they introduce half an hour of Patois lessons a week in Primary Schools it’s a start. Hear our cry!!

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