January 18, 2022

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Endangered, Jersey’s ancestral language tries to resist English

After speaking in this language, which is derived from Norman French, young students of St. Helier’s Beauvoir Convent School rehearse a traditional dance wearing checkered aprons and scarves reminiscent of local folk costumes. Then they hear the legend told by a teacher in a jersey, a hat with feathers on the head, with gestures that help children understand.

The language is at risk of extinction as the number of native speakers is declining to less than 800.

On Island, Which belongs to the British crown but is independent UK, Schools have integrated jersey or “Jèrriais” into the original language in their programs by 2020. Only a handful of the 100,000 citizens of this Channel Island still teach children the language they use.

“The number of native speakers is declining to less than 800, which means the language is in danger of disappearing, (…) so we’re working very hard to revive it,” explains Susan Parker, one of Jersey’s seven authors. From the island. According to the last report of 2012, 1% of citizens are committed to controlling it, but linguist Geraint Jennings explains that “one loses those who speak faster than the younger.”

Franோois Lee Maestro, 84, acknowledges that he is the “last generation” of native speakers. “It is very sad to lose the essence of its culture,” he attests to tea and cakes in a cozy room overlooking a well-maintained garden in the small village of St. Owen. As children, he recalled, “We didn’t talk about anything else at home.” From now on, like almost all the people of this small tax haven located between France and England, Franுவாois Le Maestro speaks mainly English, a language that imposed itself when Jersey abandoned agriculture in the mid-1940s and returned to tourism and commerce. England. “Jersey was considered an agricultural language,” explains his 77-year-old brother Jean.

With strong investment, a lot of time and effort, (man’s authorities) revived it and today there is an elementary school where children can learn using this language (…). But they started 40 years ago and still have a long way to go.

Teachers severely punished children who used it. But the situation has changed a lot. In 2019, announced by the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages, The Jersey government has added Jersey to its list of official languages, along with English and French. The decision provided an impetus to teach the language on this Anglo-Norman island.

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The government followed suit‘Man IslandAccording to the British Crown, its original Celtic language, Manx, was declared extinct in 1974. A school where children learn using this language (…) but they started 40 years ago, there is still a long way to go, ”says Susan Parker.

“If Jerseyman dies, Jersey will become part of England, it will be very sad,” said Atticus Mowby, a 21-year-old student. So to revive the island’s heritage, the young man recently signed up for dialogue workshops organized by Gerint Jennings, five days a week, in different parts of the island.

Mondays are dedicated to the business world. The linguist explains, “People want to say to themselves (…) + My products or my shop should have inscriptions on the jersey +”, showing local pound banknotes printed in three official languages. . But for now, the streets lined with light-faced Victorian mansions have more inscriptions in French, the language in which Jersey laws were written for centuries, than in Jersey. Except for five minutes a week on BBC Radio, no media uses this language. “It would be helpful if there were movies,” says Atticus Mowby.

According to Geraint Jennings, “Social networks are the best way to reach young people” because they “like what they need: they wonder how to say something, look it up on the internet and watch video”. New challenges arise: finding synonyms for modern terms such as “social networks” in a language from the past.

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