La Section de la langue Jèrriaise

D's articl'yes et des nouvelles entouor lé Jèrriais 2008

Press cuttings about Jèrriais 2008


La langue Jèrriaise



Société Jersiaise

It must not be forgotten that up to the Victorian era the spoken common language of Jersey was Jèrriais. It was in the Victorian era that English came to dominate in St Helier and it did not supersede Jèrriais in the country parishes until as late as the 1950s and 1960s.

This led, as Geraint Jennings pointed out in his Thursday lunchtime talk to the Société Jersiaise entitled Witchcraft, Elections and Snuff, Jèrriaise literature and its themes, to a wealth of written material that was published mainly in newspapers, almanacs, booklets and pamphlets.

It is sometimes claimed that there is no Jèrriase literature but this is far from the truth. There are no novels in Jèrriais but there is a wealth of poetry, short stories, articles and plays. Almost from the moment that printing was introduced into Jersey in 1780, the Jèrriais writers realised what a good medium it was to be for gossip, scandal mongering, electioneering and advertising. The first Jèrriais printed and dated poem is from 1795 by Mathew Le Geyt. It was used to advertise the Green Door snuff shop of Mr Simonet in King Street.

‘Si quicun veut du sno bon, frais, fort, bain-râpait
Y ly faut l’acate siés Mousieu Simonet’
(If someone wants snuff, good, fresh, strong, well grated
He must buy it at Mr Simonet’s)

Snuff taking in the 18th and 19th centuries was considered to be a genteel and even medicinal practice. It was particularly popular with women as smoking was considered to be a male preserve and also rather odious. (Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!) The Green Door was obviously not just a snuff shop. It was a centre of gossip, of electioneering propaganda — for the Rose party — as well as, it is suspected, a place where the two sexes could meet and enjoy a snuff tasting.

The interesting fact about Jèrriaise poetry is that it was written by those who had obviously been well educated. The format of the poems is classic French — 12-syllable Alexandrines rather than the more rhythmic structure of English verse — the iambic pentameters. As Jèrriaise poetry developed, it followed the developments in the French Alexandrine format. With a sly grin, Geraint pointed out that if rock and pop art forms of the 2lst century have been fuelled by certain substances, one could say tongue in cheek, that Jèrriais literature of the 18th and 19th centuries was turbo-charged by snuff.

Snuff was also the connection to witches, in particular the witches of Rocqueberg in St Clement. It seems that the covens were always well attended when the snuff boxes were in evidence and their sneezes could be heard throughout the parish leading as you might expect to poems in honour of their activities.

Sorcery and witchcraft were a part of rural fantasies up until the 20t century when there was a general fear that one might meet witches after dark in the streets. These fears were to be superseded by the fear in the 20th century that one might meet electioneers after dark and, in turn, a fear in the twenty first that one might meet a gang of unruly youths.

Geraint concluded his talk by reiterating what an interesting history we have through Jèrriais and that it was the language chosen by writers to comment and influence the indigenous population of the Island. Fortunately, there are still many examples of the written word extant and these can be found at the Lord Coutanche library at the Société Jersiaise at 7 Pier Road.

JEP 28/2/2008



Quirky, independent and proud, the isle of secrets and whispers

Until comparatively recently, the language of the islands was Jèrriais, a Norman French patois almost equally incomprehensible to French and British ears. Only three in a hundred islanders still speak the language (although one in eight claims some knowledge) but the linguistic difference persists in a guttural accent, closer in sound to South African than French.

Times 26/2/2008



A taste of Jèrriais

Jersey Dairy is launching a new farmhouse cheddar cheese with a traditional twist. It will be called Lé Fronmage.

The dairy decided to use the Jèrriais name following discussions with the Société Jersiaise and L’Office du Jèrriais.

Tony Scott-Warren, from L’Office du Jèrriais, attended the launch of the new cheese with Eileen Le Sueur, who is also from L’Office du Jèrriais.

Mr Scott-Warren said: ‘Our language was hidden for more than 100 years, and it is fantastic to see it being used in this way.

JEP 20/5/2008



A GCSE in Jèrriais

It's on the agenda and may become a reality in 2009

Jersey students could take a GCSE in Jèrriais next year.

LOffice du Jèrriais hope to have an agreed syllabus, examination paper and coursework by September 2009.

And the English-Jèrriais dictionary launched earlier this month by the Société Jersiaise will help chiidren get the top grades.

Jèrriais lessons started in the 1960s with adult evening classes. But it was not until 1999 that the subject was brought into schools.

Language teaching co-ordinator Tony Scott Warren teaches Jèrriais to hundreds of pupils every week and it was the feedback he received from secondary school pupils that encouraged him to pioneer for a GCSE in Jèrriais.

We have some students who are hooked, he said. 'They want to carry it on but they say they may not be able to. But if there was a GCSE and a possibility of studying it, they said they would carry it on. There is a definite call from the children.

The new dictionary was put together in anticipation of a GCSE becoming reality.

To do a GCSE you have to have material to do it, so the dictionary wlll be the new tool, said Mr Scott Warren. We were aware that we had to have an acceptable dictionary for children to use for the GCSE. All our textbooks have been written with GCSE in mind, but we shall have to develop more to have the coursework element. We are still talking through the programme.'

The course will be based on a programme in the Isle of Man in which GCSE and A-level qualifications in Manx were introduced.

We have used the Isle of Man system to help us improve the delivery of our teaching, said Mr Scott Warren, They can show us how to move forward as they have already done the things we are coming up to.

Jèrriais lessons teach speaking, reading and writing but also focus on Jersey itself.

We teach them a great deal about the Island, said Mr Scott Warren. Jersey's history, environment, everything. Its very much a Jersey-based course.'

JEP 18/6/2008



Notwithstanding the close proximity and visibility of France and the predominance of French place names, I grew up totally anglicised, never learning Jèrriais even though it was my maternal grandparents’ first language.

JEP 10/7/2008



Eden gets ready to celebrate

Eden Methodist Church is celebrating its 175th anniversary this weekend based on the maxim: ‘All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above’.

In the same year that Eden Methodist Church first opened its doors, the Abolition of Slavery was passed in the UK, Jèrriais was Jersey’s prominent language and the RJAHS was founded. The foundation stone for the church was laid in May 1833 and the inaugural service held on 15 September in the same year.

JEP 12/9/2008



Take our word for it

Updated Jèrriais dictionary published

A new and improved Dictionnaithe, or dictionary to non-Jèrriais speakers, goes on sale this week with a host of new words and translations.

It is a follow-up to the popular Jèrriais-English dictionary which was launched in 2005. Few copies were printed and those that made it into circulation became prized possessions but the launch of the new edition will allow me Islands Jerriais speakers - thought to number nearly 3,000 - a more comprehensive reference guide.

New words and phrases include faithe batchiéthe which means, rather helpfully in the current climate, go bankrupt, the modern portablye, which translates to mobile phone and even colloquial expressions such as "forteune dé dgèrre" - which allows a Jèrriais speaker to philosophise and say The way the cookie crumbles and dans l'rouoyaume des taupes which can be used to mean both asleep and dead.

The latest edition has been expanded by over ten per cent and now holds 360 pages of translations. It includes more idioms, easier cross-referencing and revised definitions of words and meanings based on the authoritative 1966 Dictionnaire Jèrriais-Français.

Geraint Jennings, from La Société Jersiaise, hopes that the new dictionary will enable the Introduction of a GCSE course in Jèrriais. A pre-requisite for the course to be introduced is the publication of this dictionary he said. A GCSE course could now be introduced as a trial with adult students next year - it depends if there are enough takers.

The companion English-Jèrriais dictionary published earlier this year is stiil available from LOffice du Jèrriais.

Jèrriais, which is derived from the Norman language once spoken in Jersey, was listed by 113 Islanders as their main language in the 2001 census and thought to be spoken by less than 3,000 people. Since then, effôrts have been made to ensure mat me language does not die and the States have funded a programme to teach the language in schools.

JEP 4/12/2008



Mind your language

That's exactly what the compilers of the latest Jèrriais dictionary want Islanders to do in order to maintain its status as a truly living entity.

A new Jèrriais dictionary has flown off the shelves at the Société Jersiaise, suggesting that Islanders are interested in reviving their ancient language. The launch of the English-Jêrriais dictionary this month carries a message for the people of Jersey to take a little time out to learn the unique language and help it to live on through the next century.

The dictionary is a culmination of years of work going back to 1860, when Adolphus Le Gros penned the first Jèrriais dictionary. Unfortunately, he only got up to the letter G before he died in 1877. After his death the Société Jersiaise formed a committee to finish the dictionary a task which took them 50 years to complete. The Glossaire du Patois Jersiais came out in 1924 and was a basic tool to help readers to grasp Jèrriais vocabulary.

But it was Frank Le Maistre who put together the first comprehensive Jèrriais to French dictionary in 1966, and his son Jean is now president of Le Don Balleine, a legacy for the promotion of Jèrriais.

Mr Le Maistre said that his father spent many a night working on the dictionary after researching words during the day

He was the agricultural advisor for Jersey and that took him around the Island meeting farmers, said Mr Le Maistre. As a result he spent a lot of time with the farmers and got to know Jèrriais.
Each day he recorded words he hadnt heard before.

But he didnt just accept that as being absolute. He would check it out with other folk in the neighbouring area, because names and accents varied between different parts of the Island. He wrote it all down in his notebook.

My father would work on the farm in the day and then go into his study and work on the dictionary. He had a card system for each word which he typed up on a specially made typewriter.

The number of words in the dictionary exceeded the number of words published by William Shakespeare and my father proof-read it twice. It became more than a definition of words. It explained how words were used in sentences and included illustrations and expressions. It is more of an encyclopaedia-dictionary

Along with Mr Le Maistre, there is another ambassador for the revival of Jèrriais. Tony Scott Warren teaches the language in schools all over the Island and is pioneering for the subject to have its own GCSE course.

Mr Scott-Warren said that Frank Le Maistres dictionary gave Jèrriais a structure. It was the standardising of Jêrriais. Before it, people would make up their own spelling, he said.

The work led to the first Jèrriais-English dictionary compiled by Albert Carré, former head of modem languages at Victoria College.

It was a straight translation with no explanation of how the words were used or in what context, said Mr Le Maistre. It is open to pitfalls for a person who does not know the context of a word. But it is a useful tool in the armour of developing the language.

In 2000 the Société Jersiaise designed the first Jèrriais chlldrens book, Les Preunmié Mille Mots - The First Thousand Words. Not only did it make the language accessible to children, it also forced the Société to modernise Jèrriais.

It got us thinking about words we had never come across in Jèrriais before, said Mr Scott Warren. There were no computers around when the first dictionary was put together it was very much an agricultural environment.

We had to think of words for new things, added Mr Le Maistre. The language can move on to accommodate new things which are evolving. Language isn't static.

The first comprehensive Jèrriais-English dictionary was published in 2005. It was based on the first two books but brought up to date, said Mr Scott Warren. It is a reflection of the world we were living in. Its now sold out, but we are hoping that new a publication will take place the new dictionary has revived peoples interest.

Mr Scott Warren said that the new dictionary would be an invaluable tool for the proposed GCSE programme.

We took the basis of the 2005 dictionary and we did a major update, he said. It took us three years because we had come across new definitions for words. This new dictionary makes the language more accessible.

Mr Scott Warren hopes that the release of the dictionary will encourage more Islanders to learn Jèrriais. He said: Once you learn Jèrriais you have the basis for learning other languages. Children discover masculine and feminine, which they dont learn about in English. You are stimulating the linguistic part of your brain, allowing you to think outside the box. You get a greater understanding of the Island and what makes it tick.

You should be doing it for fun thats why I started learning Jèrriais. I wanted something to do which was different. I have had years of fun out of it.

Mr Scott Warren said that Islanders should take advantage of the fact they have their own unique language.

The world is losing so many languages. Around the world there are 6,000 languages and it is estimated that two-thirds will not exist as spoken languages beyond the end of this century unless action is taken. In some cases action cant be taken because there is little record of the language. But here we are in a fortunate situation to do something about keeping our language going.

JEP 18/6/2008



Jersey Eisteddfod centenary gala concert

Those who took the prizes in their classes for verse reading proved again on Sunday that it is possible to remember your lines, smile and provide the correct intonation and animation to bring poetry to life in a variety of different languages. French, English, Italian and Jèrriais were all chanted fluently from the stage in front of an audience of parents, grandparents and invited guests, including the Bailiff, Sir Philip Bailhache.

JEP 9/12/2008



A Fête of which Jersey can be proud

Controversially – not to say ridiculously – a few communities in the UK have sought to brand Christmas and the associated celebrations as ‘Winterval’.

This can, presumably, be construed as an effort to broaden the appeal and acceptability of the festival to non-Christian minorities.

No such politically correct absurdities are evident here in Jersey, but we do have our own name for the wide range of activities and arrangements that help to make the Christmas period richer and more enjoyable.

The name, of course, is Fête dé Noué, which has the dual virtue of employing the Island’s traditional language, Jèrriais, and using that language’s version of an equally traditional name for this time of year, Noel.

The Fête dé Noué might have begun in a modest way, but it now features a programme that is full of diversity, colour and, for Islanders of all ages, excitement. To say that it offers something for everyone is no exaggeration.

JEP 23/12/2008



(JEP = Jersey Evening Post)



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