G U E R N S E Y F R E N C H
Click HERE for Guernsey French Entry Form
Click HERE for section Syllabus
Please see 'Who's Who' page for contact details of the Guernsey French Executive Officer.
Guernsey’s indigenous language, Guernésiais, has been part of the Guernsey Eisteddfod since its inception in 1922.
One of the primary objectives of the Guernsey French category is to promote the language and encourage more people to take an interest and delve into the linguistic heritage of Guernsey.
Known as 'Guernsey French' or 'patois' Guernésiais is actually a form of Norman. Old French evolved from the Vulgar Latin spoken in the region when it was part of the Roman Empire. Many different regional languages evolved in France before the modern 'standard' French was agreed. One of these languages was Norman, and was spoken in the islands a thousand years ago when we were ruled by the Dukes of Normandy.
After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, Norman French became the official language used at court and by the nobles. It was three hundred years before 'English' became the official language of England, and by this time a lot of Norman French words had been added to English. In Guernsey however the local people continued speaking Norman. It gradually changed into a distinct local language and indeed, words and pronunciations used in the north of the island can differ from those in the west of the island. Sark, Alderney and Jersey all developed their own variations of Norman.
It is primarily a spoken language and there is still debate over how its words should be spelled and what its proper grammar is (pronounced Gièrnesiais it can also be written as Dgernesais). To those who know French it can look strange when written down. The first dictionary was written in 1870 by Georges Métivier, who with a small number of writers aimed to preserve the language with poems and stories. These included the poet Denys Corbet (1826-1909) whose house in the Forest now has a blue plaque dedicated in his memory.
Whilst the Guernsey French section of the Eisteddfod does have a healthy competitive component; it is a competition after all – the competitors always give their best and the atmosphere is friendly and convivial. Competitors pool their language skills and help each other and often volunteer coaching to newcomers should they request assistance with pronunciation and intonation.
With the establishment of the Guernsey Language Commission, the Guernsey French category is even more important now as concerted efforts are being implemented Bailiwick-wide to keep Guernsey French alive.