Jerriais – The language of the Channel Islands

Primary school children in Jersey Island now have an opportunity to study Jerriais. Jerriais is the language that is spoken in Jersey. Jerriais classes were incorporated into the school curriculum. This means that every student will be expected to take at least 6 lessons in Jerriais. Most of the students, who are 8 to 9 years old are also entitled to receive a CD and booklet on Jerriais. Students will also be taught on different aspects of the language. About 200 students are learning the language in school. Jerriais language was quite important to the citizens, especially during the German occupation, as the citizens wanted to communicate in a language that the Germans did not understand.

According to a census report that was published in 2001, there are 2,674 people who speak Jerriais. This is about 3 percent of the population, with another 15 percent of the population having some understanding of the language. The language has been spoken in Jersey for 1,000 years. Originally, Jerriais was the primary language spoken in Jersey but the number of speakers have declined over the years. Jerriais is now an endangered language as it has been overtaken even by English. English is now used as the primary means of instruction, administration and commerce. Jerriais is also referred to as Jersey Norman French or Jersey French. It is a Romance language. It has loan words from other languages. Jerriais is considered a local language due to the fact that it has evolved over time with the people and the history of Jersey. Also, the language is not widely spoken anywhere else in the world, outside the Channel islands.

Even though quite a few people speak Jerriais at the moment, it was quite a popular language before the 19th century. Up until the 2nd world war, up to half the Jersey population could communicate in the language. Up to now, there isn’t a full version of the Bible in Jerriais. Only some sections of the bible have been translated. This is largely due to the fact that French was the language that was predominantly used by the church in Jersey.

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