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It's the last chance saloon

It's the last chance saloon

Tuesday 30 June 2020

It's the last chance saloon

£300,000 could be spent over the next three years on plans to save Guernsey's language, with a warning it will "fade into obscurity very soon" otherwise.

The States are going to be asked to increase its annual funding from £26,000 to £100,000 a year in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

That money will be spent on things like raising awareness of Guernésiais, encouraging participation in speaking it, effective teaching methods and recording and archiving it. It will also allow a full-time Development Officer to be employed to work on teaching and promoting the language. 


Pictured: The Gruffalo was translated into Guernsey French as part of an initiative by Island Language LBG with the support of Guernsey Museums. 

Preserving Guernésiais comes under the mandate of the Committee for Education, Sport and Culture, which wants to reform the Guernsey Language Commission so that it can then carry out the work needed to 'sustain and develop' Guernsey French.

With little money having been spent on formal efforts to save the language in recent years, ESC now says this is the States "one final opportunity to maintain and promote the Island’s indigenous language" and if they don't take this opportunity "it should be allowed to fade into obscurity very soon".

Deputy Matt Fallaize, President of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture, said the proposed funding will be "limited" but will prevent the language becoming "extinct on our watch".


Pictured: Deputy Matt Fallaize. 

“Guernésiais has been a unique feature of the Island’s history and culture for hundreds of years, but the language is now facing the possibility of extinction in just the next few years. We have come to a crossroads on the language: we need to provide this limited additional funding to maintain and develop its use or it will become extinct on our watch. That is putting it bluntly but accurately but that is how it needs to be put so that the States can come to an informed decision knowing the consequences of the vote which we hope will take place in August.

“Our Committee currently has a budget of just £26,000 for the language, which we will continue to invest in initiatives, but the additional grant now proposed is the only way of giving the new Commission a real chance of success in its goals. Realistically this is the last opportunity for the States to demonstrate its commitment to the survival of its Island’s language. We will of course accept the outcome, which will be either to get behind the language and give the community a fighting chance of retaining it or accept that it is going to become extinct very soon.”

Last year, as part of its submission to the Policy & Resource Plan, ESC said it wanted to provide limited additional funding for the language through the presentation of “a plan to support the local language to the States”.

The Policy Letter has now been submitted to the States for debate in August, proposing the funding to reform the Guernsey Language Commission so that it can then 'work to sustain and develop Guernésiais as a unique aspect of the Island’s culture, heritage and identity'.

The ESC Committee said if the States do not agree the proposed investment the Island will have to accept the terminal decline of Guernésiais as anything more than an artefact of history.

“It will be a considerable challenge first to halt and then reverse the decline in the use of Guernésiais, but the rewards to be gained in terms of the preservation of our unique identity and wider benefits are such that the process should be allowed to begin without delay," said Deputy Fallaize.

Guernsey Language Commission

Pictured: Written forms of Guernsey French are saved for the island archives and audio recordings have been made of people speaking it, but extra funding will allow the Guernsey Language Commission to do more. 

If the funding is approved the reformed Guernsey Language Commission will be formed as an umbrella body to help the work of existing institutions and groups and it will have four core objectives:

  • 1. Raise awareness of Guernésiais and encourage participation, giving it a relevance to the present-day population and economy of the Island
  • 2. Facilitate the effective teaching of Guernésiais
  • 3. Research, record and archive Guernésiais, ensuring that this vital piece of our heritage is not lost
  • 4. Raise funding to enable the Commission to deliver its mandate

ESC said the reformed commission's first task will be to consult with the community to develop a business plan with short, medium and long term goals.

Pictured top: ESC has warned this is the last chance to save Guernesiais. Translation by Yan Marquis. 


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