The Jèrriais Language Strategy 2022-25 was launched a year ago and in this article Ben Spink, Head of the Jèrriais Teaching Service, looks back at some of the highlights in a year where the number of Jèrriais learners grew to over 1000, compared to just over 150 in the academic year 2020-2021.
It’s like waiting for eune beusse! No sooner was the Jèrriais Strategy launched in Avri 2022 than another island-wide language policy with Jèrriais at its heart was published by the Gouvèrnément d’Jèrri in Mai. The policy described how multilingual learners will be supported in educational settings throughout Jersey, including learners of Jèrriais.
Lé mais d’Juîn saw the launch of Jèrriais as part of the language learning app uTalk. The app is an ideal learning tool for any beginner looking to start their Jèrriais learning viage, featuring thousands of commonly used mots and phrâses. All the words and phrases were voiced by native Jèrriais speakers in order to help learners with their pronunciation. To sign up for a free license featuring Jèrriais and 9 other languages, users should:
· visit www.learnjerriais.org.je, find the uTalk logo and enter your name and email address
· you will be taken to a specific uTalk page to set up a new uTalk account
· download the uTalk app to your computer, tablet or mobile phone.
Lé S’tembre (Autumn) 2022 was a busy time for the Jèrriais Teaching Service. First of all, we had Jersey Festival of Words, with 4 separate events featuring Jèrriais. There was the launch at Jersey Zoo of a new picture book, Julia Donaldson’s Monkey Puzzle, or D’vinnâle dé Marmoûset. Hundreds of people came along and enjoyed some storytelling and craft activities. 1000 free copies of the book were subsequently distributed to children in reception classes throughout the Island.
There was also a talk by Professor Mari Jones about her work with the Channel Island languages and a singalong in Jèrriais with Badlabecques. Jèrriais also featured at the launch of a poetry anthology, Small Island Big Dreams, compiled by poetry collective La Poèt’tie.
Then we had La Folle d’Avoût – the Corn Riots Festival – a celebration of our cultural heritage with a significant Jèrriais presence. A 45-strong children’s choir sang ‘J’allons Sauver not ‘Langue’ (We’re Going to Save our Language) to a crowd of hundreds in Lé Vièr Marchi (Royal Square). This was followed by Jèrriais dancing led by Les Chaboleurs (The Shufflers).
The festival featured a Jèrriais harvest-themed exhibition of children’s artwork in the town church, where a Jèrriais film produced by Little River Pictures was also screened. Norman games were available to play in Royal Square in the morning, then in the evening two Jèrriais bands – Mêli-Mêlo and Badlabecques – entertained crowds in the centre of Saint Hélyi.
In Octobre, we had La Faîs’sie d’Nièr Beurre (Black Butter Making) and La Faîs’sie d’Cidre (Cider Making) taking place at the Elms and Hamptonne respectively, on consecutive weekends. There was music, poetry and dancing, as well as the usual Jèrriais stall selling books and merchandise.
There’s a diton (saying) in Jèrriais, ‘À forche dé crier Noué, i’ veint!’ which is roughly equivalent to the saying ‘everything comes to those who wait’. Literally, however, it’s more like ‘Shout Christmas and along it comes’. La Fête dé Noué 2022 featured more Jèrriais than ever before, with a stall in Lé Vièr Marchi, complete with books and a variety of merchandise. There was also a performance by Jersey’s newest Jèrriais band, Mêli-Mêlo.
Another event in Dézembre was a celebration of the life of Jèrriais writer Augustus Asplet Le Gros at La Salle Pârouaîssiale dé St Pièrre. AA Le Gros was a former Connêtabl’ye of St Peter and we were delighted to be hosted by the current constable, Richard Vibert. We enjoyed an evening of music, poetry and food, including some delicious Jersey mèrvelles and a tasty pais au fou (bean crock). Tchi bouonne séthée!
In Janvyi 2023, interviews with over trente (30) native Jèrriais speakers took place. These will form an invaluable learning resource for Jèrriais and will feature in a documentary about the langue. The interviews will also be archived as a lasting record of this precious generation of speakers.
The junior Jèrriais Section of the Jersey Eisteddfod returned on a face-to-face basis in Janvyi for the first time since 2019 as a result of the pandemic. Over 200 children entered the Jèrriais Eisteddfod in 2023, a record number of participants. In Févri, Jersey born Mezzo-Soprano Georgia-Mae Bishop performed the first ever operatic song cycle written in Jèrriais.
Au mais d’Mar, two important events took place in our sister isle of Dgèrnésy. First was the official launch of Professor Mari Jones’ latest publication, A Glossary of the Norman Language in the Channel Islands. Then, a recording took place of Traditional Music and Songs of the Channel Islands by the band Lihou, featuring songs in Jèrriais and Dgèrnésiais.
Café convèrsâtion groups have continued throughout the year in St Martîn on Wednesdays (Village Tea Room), St Hélyi on Thursdays (Jersey Museum) and St Ouën on Fridays (Jersey Pearl). Groups meet from 10:30am, all welcome.
Mille (1000) Jèrriais learners is a significant achievement and begins to lay a strong foundation upon which to rebuild and revitalise Jersey’s native tongue. But by no means does the hard work end there, nânnîn-dgia! We must now capitalise on the momentum generated by the Strategy and work towards creating a new generation of Jèrriais speakers, to ensure a lasting legacy for our Island’s precious indigenous language.
Hèque lé Jèrriais!
Ben Spink (April 2023)