Jersey’s actions to protect and promote the Jèrriais language are inspiring our neighbours in France to do the same for Norman dialects.
Normandy has just set up the Conseil Scientifique et Culturel des parlers normands (CSC), to deliver its strategy for the future of the Norman language. The new body comprises 16 experts from around the region, including academics, lawyers, archivists, native speakers and language activists. It also includes Geraint Jennings, Jersey Heritage’s Jèrriais Promotion Officer, so that he can share his experience and expertise.
The CSC recently held its inaugural meeting at the headquarters of the Regional Council of Normandy in Caen and among its first decisions was to visit Jersey later this year for its members to see for themselves what the Island is doing to safeguard its language.
Geraint was at the meeting and said: “The CSC decided that given the existence of an established teaching programme and official Jèrriais signage in Jersey, a priority this year should be to see what Jersey is doing to promote its native language.
“Jèrriais is an important part of the Island’s story and the example that Jersey has set in making Jèrriais an official language is significant. Our experience of language planning and producing teaching materials has already influenced what our mainland cousins are doing for the Norman dialects – the weekly Jèrriais café meet-ups, for example, have served as a model for similar regular Norman language café sessions being rolled out across the region.”
The CSC was set up following the reunification of Normandy into one French region and the resulting aim of the new regional council to forge a new identity. Last year, a strategy for the Norman language was adopted and it was decided that experts in Norman language should be assembled to advise on correct usage, approve projects and develop the language.
Geraint said: “The situation in France, where official use of regional languages is restricted, is very different to the British Isles, where languages such as Jèrriais, Irish, Welsh, Cornish,
Manx and others have recognised status in education and official use. Mainland Norman does not have that status, but the region intends to work to safeguard the future of the language.”
The visit by the CSC to Jersey will take place in September. The CSC will be hosted by Jersey Heritage and the visit will include meetings with Government of Jersey representatives, including the Education Department.