Guernsey’s Committee for Education, Sport and Culture is investing £16,000 in an initiative to help preserve the island’s surviving Guernésiais dialects.
The money will be used for a project proposed by the Culture, Heritage, Education and Museums’ Information Network (CHEMIN) to bring together local volunteers and native speakers of Guernsey-French to work in partnership with two academics: Dr Harry Parkin of the University of Chester, and Dàibhidh Grannd, Postgraduate Researcher in Toponymy at the University of Glasgow.
The ultimate aim is to digitise the entire body of Guernsey French, beginning with high-quality recordings of place name and vocabulary pronunciations.
‘We are living in a homogenised age where people are increasingly appreciating cultural identity, the richness of a community‘s heritage, and the benefits of honouring diversity. Our island language is one of our national treasures, which I often use in my external affairs role as a topic of conversation to help distinguish our Anglo-Norman Islands from both the UK and France,’ said Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq, who grew up speaking Guernésiais as his first language.
‘We should do our best to preserve and promote healthy interest in it. As an ‘âne pur sàng’ (pure blooded donkey – as Câtel parishioners are nicknamed!) I am ‘hardi fiær’ (very pleased) to support this initiative from the CfESC.’
The initiative, which will be funded from the committee’s existing budget, will complement a ‘Plan for Guernésiais’, which will be submitted to the States for debate early in 2020. The plan will propose additional investment for a time-limited period of three years.
It’s a commitment needed before the inevitable loss of the final generation of first-language Guernsey French speakers, according to committee president Deputy Matt Fallaize.
‘We know the number of speakers of our native language is in decline. This is partly why it is important to capture the different dialects of the language, which is a distinctive part of our culture and heritage. If this modest investment helps to produce a digital resource of island names, it will make an important contribution to preserving and strengthening our culture and heritage.’