La Section de la langue Jèrriaise

Lé Sèrtchais

Sercquais - Sark-French - Sark patois - Sarkese - Sercquiais


Sus chutte page j'avons tchiques exempl'yes du Sèrtchais - et un mio d'înfo entouor la langue étout.

Sark was colonised by 40 families from St. Ouën, Jersey, in the C16th. Sèrtchais is therefore a development of Jèrriais even though Sark is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey.



The patois differs in pronunciation in each island but it is still fundamentally old Norman French. Both my sister and I were brought up to speak this as well as modern French.

...Then, as now, I could speak the island patois - a mediaeval French incomprehensible to any but the Channel islanders.

Dame of Sark
Sibyl Hathaway


“Au buon monde de Ser... puise l'ute île tréjoue r'tenin la bieauté trantille q'j'trouvis et q'j'aimis, quan j'y vins ya pus d'quarante ans déjà”

Ken Hawkes


Home for a Sark Christmas

Sercquiais from all over the world have come back home to spend Christmas with relatives and friends while many English residents have left or their native land. For the holiday season Sark will have come into its own, a it were, the Sark of bygone days when the English language was seldom heard. Over Christmas Sark-French was, shall I say, the universal language as families re-united around the old fire-places, in the local churches and in the local pubs.

Jersey Weekly Post 2/1/1960


La Saint-Jean

by Sercquiaise

...Every household expected spider crabs for tea on that day. "Des huelins pour la Saint-Jean" were as important as hot cross buns on Good Friday!...

Guernsey Evening Press 23/6/1956



Sark Christmasses of Yore

by Sercquiaise

...."One for the road" on Christmas day was usually offered as "un verre caud" (a hot glass - of wine or spirit with sugar and boiling water added to taste). This was also the most popular drink of the day with most Sark families...

Guernsey Evening Press 30/12/1955



...the card games would be either Sauver le Cinq (French) called in our patois Sauver le Shain, and the English translation, Save the Five....

Sark, My Island Home
Heather L. Baker


Preserving Sark Norman-French

Should a Society be Formed?

When, at Sark's Easter Chief Pleas, Sieur A. G. Falle, of Stock's Hotel, remarked that all members should learn Sark Norman-French, probably he had little thought for just how much the island would benefit should all members interested in the preservation of the native tongue co-operate in forming a Société Sercquiaise of an Assembliée d'Sercquiais.

It is a distressing fact that few Sark Children are able to converse in their native tongue, though a fair number understand it. In but a few years, Sark-French will be heard no more unless something is done to arrest its decline.

At the Chefs Plaids, Deputy Harold de Carteret expressed the opinion that English only should be spoken thus giving the "strangers" a chance of knowing what was being said, and in reply to Sieur A. G. Falle's retort, asked if that member could teach the language, adding, somewhat acidly, "You can't even write it".

C.I. Littérateur

There may have been a great deal of truth in this, for I have not yet met any Sercquiais who can write his own language. I must, however, disagree with a statement made in Guernsey recently that the Channel Islands Norman-French is not a literary language, for there are a number of littérateurs of considerable distinction in Jersey and Guernsey whose contribututions in this field have been exceedingly meritorious.

Strange to relate, but Deputy de Carteret is most fluent in la langue Serquiaise and is one of those in the island who can read Jersey-French. What is more, Deputy de Carteret is an amusing and colourful raconteur and an actor of no mean ability; his performance last year in a Jersey-French play by Mr. S. P. Le Ruez will never be forgotten.

Outside help

Now then, while the Island has these Sark-French speaking people, a society should be formed not only from among members of the Chefs Plaids but from all walks of island life, including those "strangers" who have a desire to learn a new and interesting language. I feel sure that outside help would be forthcoming from insular Normans who can write the language.

The first requisite would be to acquire a tape recorder; recordings could then be sent to Jersey (Sark-French being closely related to Jersey-French), possibly to l'Assembliée d'Jèrriais, some of whose members might volunteer to render the spoken into the written word.

There are, surely, immense possibilities in this linguistic field, for recordings of Sark-French could also be sent to Guernsey; in fact there could be an inter-island exchange.

"Vrai Sercquiais"

Of the People's Deputies in Sark's Chefs Plaids who are more at home in Sark-French and who could therefore be described as "vrai Sercquiais," I can think of Deputies John guille, Winter Vibert, Harold de Carteret, John P. Hamon, Elie de Carteret, Stanley Falle and Mrs. Lillian Baker, and of the Tenants there are Sieurs A.G. Falle, E.S. Falle, Charles Perrée, E. C. Perrée and Philip Perrée, Mrs. Esther Perrée, Sieurs John Baker, Ensor Baker, James Baker, Herbert Baker, William Baker (Sénéchal), Walter James Hamon, W. J. Hamon (Le Fort) and J. V. Hamon, Mrs. Harriet Hamon, and Sieur John P. Le Feuvre, Mrs. S. N. Hathaway, Capt. John Henry and Sieurs Stephen Henry and Robert de Carteret.

The Prévôt, Sieur Philip Guille, and the Greffier, Sieur Hilary Carré, are also fluent in the language.

It can be seen, therefore, that of the 36 Tenants, no fewer than 21 are more at home in their native tongue, and of the 12 People's Deputies seven are Sark-French speaking. That being the case, should the Sark-French speaking members decide to address the House in the vernacular, then 20 members would not understand what the other 28 were talking about.

There would seem to be a case for the formation of a Société Sercquiaise which could instruct all-comers in the language of the island and combine with the other Channel Islands in preserving for posterity the old-Norman-French tongue.

Sark Correspondent

Evening Post 25/4/1955



News from Sark

... Stepping ashore, Pilot Baker said in Sark-French: "I'd take anyone or anything, anywhere, anytime in this boat. She wouldn't drown a kitten."

And I believe him...

Evening Post 6/4/1955



Seeking Better Opportunities

... They thus tramped back up Le Mont du Creux and what they has to say "en Sercquiais", about monopolies and nationalization in general is quite unprintable...

Evening Post 6/4/1955



Talented Canadian Visits Island

Language Recordings by Montreal University Professor

...Professor Lefebvre hopes to make further recordings to-morrow, this time of Mr. and Mrs. Ph. Perrée, a well-known Sark couple now resident in the Island...

Evening Post 27/4/1955



Sark Licence Extension Applications

Discussion in vernacular

Up to this point the Court proceedings had been conducted in English, but discussion then ensued between the Sénéchal, Prévôt, Greffier, Constable and the other applicants in the vernacular...

Evening Post 7/6/1955



Sark's Liberation Celebrations

... a typical old Sark scene, replete with old wishing well and an elderly Sertchais making crab pots...

Evening Post 13/6/1955



I asked a leading member of Chief Pleas yesterday whether any special surprises would be laid on at the school as at the Pancake election. He replied: "Nou pense bein qué l'Sieu' Albèrt Falle apport'ra du vin brûlé et d'la galette pouor les Douzenyis et les Connétablyes."

Evening Post 1954



Sark Residents Return After Holidays

... Mr. and Mrs. John Hamon, stewards of the Island Hall, have also returned to Sark after holidaying in Jersey. They are giving a graphic account of the excitement which reigned during Jersey's Senatorial elections and were thrilled to hear the Jersey-French songs by the supporters of Senator T. G. Le Marinel. All the songs are well known in Sark, Mrs. Hamon's father, Deputy Winter Vibert, and Mr. Jean Carré, of La Joie, are among the few people in Sark to-day who take the stage on great Sark occasions to entertain the inhabitants with Sark-French songs and poetry – with appropriate actions.

Evening Post 23/11/1954


Preserving Sark-French

I am reliably informed, through the medium of Sark's "bush telegraph", that before Mr. Head relinquishes his seat, he is to ask Chief Pleas what measures can be taken to preserve the language of the island. I understand he will suggest that as the finances of Sark are in a healthy state, an additional teacher should be engaged to take the children in Sark-French on two half-days per week and that parents should be asked to co-operate by always conversing with their children "en Sercquiais" and encouraging their children to reply in the same tongue.

An excellent suggestion, if I may say so, for only by these means will the language be preserved.

Evening Post November 1954



Sark character's death

Many of the regular Jersey visitors to Sark will be sorry to hear of the death of Mr. Edward Vibert, a well-known island character. Known as "Douard de Ser", he spent some time in Jersey after having been in England during the war. There he was supposed to have forgotten his native tongue and called himself "Edward Vibart". However he was unable to disguise his Sark Norman-French accent, and all too often he would let slip a vernacular expletive - much to the delight of those talking to him.

Jersey Weekly Post 12/5/1962



Man buonhomme est bein malade

Man mari est bein malade
Et j'n'sais qu'est'ce qu'i' a

J'm'en fus-t-en Guer-ne-si
Du Lundi à Mercredi

Mais quan j'ervins i'tait mort
Et encore ensev'li

J'appis mes p'tites ciselettes
Point à point j'l'décousais

Mais quan j'appraichis p'tite gorgette
J'craignais qu'i' n'me mordisse

J'l'appis par l'gros orté
J'l'env'yis avau l'côti

J'priyis tous les corbins
D'v'ni prieu auprès d'li


Visite du Prince Lucien Bonaparte à Jersey

Le Prince, voulant entendre parler la langue des Serkois, se rendit à Serk Lundi dernier, accompagné de M. Stephen Martin, Shérif de la Reine. Son Altesse fit la traversée de Guernesey à Serk à bord du steamer Queen of the Isles, en compagnie de 120 autres excursionnistes. En debarquant le Prince fut reçu par le Seigneur de Serk, qui l'invita à monter en voiture et à se laisser conduire au Manoir. Il accepta, mais avant de partir il assembla un certain nombre d'insulaires et les pria de lui traduire dans le dialecte de l'île la Parabole du Semeur. Les insulaires le firent de la meilleure grâce du monde, et le Prince leur donna un souverain en les quittant. Ces pauvres gens restèrent ébahis devant cette munificence. Après avoir pris une collation au Manoir, le Prince fit une promenade dans l'île et visita les endroits les plus curieux qu'eslle possède; puis, en revenant au Manoir, il s'arrêta à l'hôtel d'Icart, tenu par Mrs. Vaudin, et voulut s'assurer si la traduction de la Parabole était correcte. A cet effet il entra en conversation avec l'hôtesse et sa fille, lesquelles indiquèrent plusieurs omissions qui furent corrigées. Dans la soirée du même jour, Son Altesse retourna à Guernesey avec les autres excursionnistes.

Nouvelle Chronique de Jersey 20/9/1862

Parable of the Sower
Pathabole du S'meux

First published Sèrtchais


S. Makyu. Chap. XIII.

L'chen qui sème s'n allit s'mai ;

4 Et tàndis qu' i s'maitt une partie d' la s'menche quitt le long du ch'mìnn et l's oesiaux du ciel vìndrint et i la màndgirent.

5 Une aûtre quitt dans d's endréts roquieurs, où alle n'avait pas fort de terre; et ou l'vist ossivite, parçe que la terre où al' 'tait n'était pas ben avant.

6 Mais l'solé se l'vitt et ou fut brulaie; et coumme ou n'avait pas d'rachinnes, ou s'quitt.

7 Une aûtre quitt dans d's épinnes, et l's épinnes vìndrent à craitre, et l'etoupidrent.

8 Une aûtre enfin quitt dans d'bouanne terre, et ou portit du fritt; quiq' grâins rèndirent chent pour un, d'aûtres sessànte, et d'aûtres trente.

9 L'chen qu'a d's oureilles pour ouit qu' il ouêt.



The Sarkese Lingo


Kes, kes, kais par sus les kais ? un Serkaie; which we translate thus :- Who has fallen over the quay? a Sarkese. Long, long ago, Master Nico Mauger, proprietor of "La Gazette de Guernesey," had a dispute with some of the Sarkese boatmen in Guernsey. One of them closed his fist, and put it under Nico's nose, and said : "Man bigre de Mausquet, quond tu viendras en Serk, et que j'te kaindrai dans man basté j'te donnrai une bigre de dauskin - tu connistras chu k'chest que d'pillais sus les piafres (feet) d'un fitu Serkais."

In Sark, as well as in Guernsey, they call all birds, from an Eagle to a Tom-tit, a Mouisson, the bird we call a Moisson in Jersey is a sparrow ; to a Jersey ear this is quite a nonsens. The Sarkese having originated from Jersey have retained the Gerriais of olden times. In Jersey the Gerriais is interlarded with many English words - not so in Sark, for they have have very few English among them, so their language is pure Gerriais, of the 13th century.

A Sarkese Dirge

"Retiens donc tes pleurs,
Et apprends à mouorir."


Nou zest malade - I faust mouorir..
Souffrir - plieurer - finir -
Quai monde - oh Sercq - je meurs - je meurs -
Sans soins et sans Docteurs.*

* Sark has no medical man - not even a chemist.
Since 1869 they have both.

Jean Sullivan



On a souvent représenté le parler de Sercq comme une langue à part dans les dialectes normands des Iles de la Manche; un pêcheur-paysan de la Vauroque, habitué à piloter les étrangers et à "faire mousser" son île, m'a affirmé la même chose. il m'a paru, pour avoir entendu le language de Sercq parlé soit par des adultes, soit surtout par les garçonnets et par les fillettes des écoles, que le parler sercquais ne diffère guère du langage normand de Jersey que par l'intonation. Cette intonation, à Sercq, est traînante et même modulée. on appuie longuement sur les voyelles. C'est un doux parler chantant semblable â celui de quelques vieilles campagnes de France (...) On se croirait bien loin d'un pays anglais ou anglaisé en entendant les fillettes de l'école se dire entre elles Nenni, et répéter à tout propos ce et tout ou itou dont les commères des pays de France font un si grand abus. Mais soudain une forme ou un mot anglais enchâssés dans ce français campagnard changent l'impression. au français on mêle couramment mistake pour méprise, entrance pour entrée.

L'Archipel de la Manche
Camille Vallaux



Agricultural Sketch of the Island of Sark

The Sarkese employ a language between themselves, which has descended from father to son and been preserved in its original purity. They brought it with them from Jersey, where in those early days it already was a patois. No doubt since then it has undergone some modifications caused in part by the use of a better French spoken in the church, schools, and court; but they are slight, owing to Sark being out of the way of much intercourse with strangers.

This probably is the reason why Prince Lucien Bonaparte, who is a reliable authority on such subjects, declared that the Sark patois was the purest and the best of the Channel Islands. when it is written, a great number of words are seen to be good French; others which are as pure, sound differently on account of the pronunciation; and there are many words which are essentially peculiar to Sark and may be set down as patois.

This patois when written is almost unintelligible to a French scholar; and when the stranger hears it spoken or pronounced by a Sarkman it is quite incomprehensible to him unless he knows something of the French spoken in Normandy, or Picardy, and in some parts of Brittany.

It is evident that the Sark patois is undergoing changes and gradually becoming extinct. The children do not now pronounce it so well nor so clippingly, nor with that seemingly-careful and sharp sounding of every vowel and consonant, to be noticed in the speech of the older generation.

Louisa Lane Clarke
The Guernsey Magazine
December 1875



The insular dialect — probably an antiquated form of that of the mother-island, Jersey — of course differs widely from the written language of modern France. Academicians have declared Villehardouin's prose to be no longer French, notwithstanding the relative purity of its obsolete Champenois phraseology, as if the language of the nineteenth century were the undeviating model instead of the perverted copy! None, however, but those who have mastered the early remains of Walloon and Norman-French literature, and compared them with the vernacular speech of the Arrondissement de la Hague and the adjacent isles, analyzing each glossary with philological rigour and impartiality, can be expected to form a true conception of the merits and defects of the Low-Norman French which is still spoken in Sark. Hence the contradictory statements of many an English resident, as well as a reverend visitor from Guernsey intimately conversant with the two 'jargons,' if such they be. According to the former—possibly unacquainted with a refined French 'far removed' from its Latin and Teutonic fountain-heads — the Sark patois is 'inarticulate and guttural;' while, according to the latter, it is ' the softest' of all the outre-Manche dialects, notwithstanding the true Gaelic or Gallican, and (we might venture to add) Hibernian peculiarity of its tone. It is true that those who have been out of the island speak better French: these observations, therefore, apply to those persons who have never gone further than St. Peter-Port.

The Sark Guide
G.W. James



Un p'tit vocabulaithe


Sèrtchais Jèrriais Angliais
a'shtarlevèe l'arlevée afternoon
tréjoue tréjous always
raine dé mé eune reinotte dé mé angler fish
l'bantyi lé bantchi banker
l'paunyi lé pangni basket
la côt-souris la caûque-souothis bat
l'pi d'mai lé pais d'mai bean
l'liet lé liet bed
l'oueseu l'ouaîsé bird
meil un mêle blackbird
l'forgeu lé forgeux blacksmith
l'brouaise la brînge brush
l'boutiet lé boutchet bucket
l'tierpenti lé tchèrpentchi carpenter
l'céelin lé pliafond ceiling
la chimtire lé chînm'tchiéthe cemetery
la tiaire la tchaîse chair
l'estouma l'estonma chest
l'pouechein lé pouochîn chicken
l'ésfant l'êfant child
la banque la falaise cliff
l'tierbon lé tchèrbon coal
congre eune andgulle conger
la vacque la vaque cow
coneille eune côneille crow
courlieu un corlieu curlew
o'jeu sinne dé jeu dawn
oui' dur ouï haut deaf
l'tchon lé tchian dog (n)
l'lû la porte door
l'frôc lé fro dress (n)
l'ourelle, l'oui l'ouothelle car
o'sair lé sé evening
l'yi l'yi eye
la fache la fache face
l'terriôt l'hèrnais farmcart
l'poière lé péthe father
grive de l'hiver un pliacard fieldfare
l'deu lé dé finger
poietyi pêtchi fish
la flieu la flieu flour
la môque la moûque fly
l'pi lé pid foot
la forque la frouque fork
la biche la biche goat
à buèto à bétôt goodbye
à la prechen à la préchaine goodbye
dehaleu   go out
l'pirôt lé pithot goose
l'jaon lé geon gorse
l'critiet lé critchet grasshopper
l'gaude, l'autiette eune gaude guillemot
l'g'veue les g'veux hair
l'verdeleu un vèrdreu hedge sparrow
héran un héthan herring
l'mauve la mauve herring gull
s'muchi s'muchi hide (v)
l'tchisse la tchiêsse hip
l'g'va lé j'va horse
l'grosbec lé mouosson house sparrow
qui chaleu! fait-i' caud! isn't it hot
la cahouette la p'tite caûvette jackdaw
l'corset la câsaque jacket
Jerri Jèrri Jersey
l'môgue lé mogue jug
la caudire lé ticl'ye kettle
l'cliet la clié key
l'rouai lé rouai king
boiesi embraichi kiss (v)
la tuisainne la tchuîsinne kitchen
ouvreu ouvrer knit
l'annié l'angné lamb
l'nivloteu lé pièrcheux lazy person
tyiteu tchitter leave
l'tuir lé tchui leather
la gambe la gambe leg
la veue la veue light
l'épar l'êpart lightning
l'mactié lé maqu'thé mackerel
l'monnyi lé mangni manor
l'brisqui l'alleunmette match
poulet de fauchée eune poule d'ieau moorhen
pus pus more
la moière la méthe mother
sha! cha! move on!
l'epile l'êpile neddle
prechen préchain next
naunin nânnîn no
vi vyi old
iun ieune one
l'pie marange eune mathanne oystercatcher
l'pinciau lé créyon pencil
l' couechon lé couochon pig
l't'yisin l'ouothilyi pillow
la tierrue la tchéthue plough
trantille trantchil quiet
corbin un corbîn raven
d'la reüe eune raie ray
l'razeu lé râzeux razor
l'barbelote lé bliu poffîn razorbill
dêtre drouaite right
tristre triste sad
Ser, Saire Sèr Sark
l'sauci la souôtâsse saucer
l'saspain lé sâsse-paine saucepan
l'vraic lé vrai seaweed
cormoran un cormouothan shag
la qu'minse la c'mînse shirt
la shoppe la boutique shop
l'skirt la cotelle skirt
douchement douochement slowly
bécasse eune bécassine snipe
l'nef la né snow
suc sud south
étourné un êtourné starling
un tigre-reüe eune têgrêsse stingray
hérondael eune héthonde swallow
boudinyi lôvier tack
l'pôt à teie lé pot' à thée teapot
l'ute lus their
trye trais three
la pochi lé pônchet thumb
l'orté l'orté toe
l'orme lé bouais tree
les briais les braies trousers
cau caud warm
l'ieau l'ieau water
rale eune râle d'ieau water rail
la pièche de mier la louême wave
vaie vouêst west
l'luc un lieu whiting
eune panche un bouothé whiting pout
pourtyi pas? pouortchi pas? why not?
l'videco la bécache woodcock
la fi la laine wool
l'riberte un raîté wren
l'laboreu lé labouotheux yellow wagtail
jaunne janne young






Sark Ken Hawkes 1992 éd.
Birds of Sark F.R.G. Rountree 1974
Vocabulaithe des paîssons Le Maistre & Le Sueur (dotchûment)



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