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.

On an island belonging to the British Crown but independent of the United Kingdom, schools have integrated Jersey, or “Jerias“In their original language, in their shows in 2020. Only a handful of the 100,000 people who live on this Channel Island teach children a language that is still in practice.

The number of native speakers is declining below 800, which means that the language is in danger of extinction, (…) so we are working very hard to revive it.Susan Parker, one of the island’s seven jersey teachers, explains.

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According to the last register of 2012, 1% of citizens confirmed that it was controlled but “We lose speakers among the elderly faster than the younger“, Explains linguist Geraint Jennings.

Franுவாois Lee Maestro, 84, “Last generation“From native speakers.

Losing the essence of your culture is so sad“In the small village of St. Owen, he testifies around tea and cakes in a cozy living room overlooking a well-maintained garden.

Children, “We didn’t talk about anything else at home“, He recalled.

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.

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Jersey was considered an agricultural language“, It’s not worthy of protection,” explains his 77 – year – old brother Jean.

– Official language –

Teachers severely punished children who used it. But the situation has changed a lot.

In 2019, declared the International Year of Indigenous Languages ​​by the United Nations, the Jersey government 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.

The government thus adopted the Isle of Man model, based on the British Crown, its original Celtic language, which was declared extinct in 1974.

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“, Compare Susan Parker.

To Atticus Mawby, a 21-year-old student, “If Jersey dies, Jersey will become part of the UK and it will be very sad. ”So to revive the island’s heritage, the young man recently enrolled in conversation workshops that Geraint Jennings conducts five days a week in different parts of the island.

– Media and Social Networks –

Mondays are dedicated to the business world. “We want people to say to themselves (…) + I want my products or my shop to have inscriptions on the jersey +“, The linguist explains, showing the 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.

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Except for five minutes a week on BBC Radio, no media uses this language. “Movies would be helpful if there were“, Advice Atticus Mavi.

According to Gerint Jennings, “The best way to reach young people is through social networks“Car”They like things they need: they are amazed at how to say something, search for it on the internet and watch video“.


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