Guernsey French beginners guide launched

Harry Tomlinson Dr Tomlinson said Guernesiais was the language of William the Conqueror

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A new Guernsey French book aims to provide a simple introduction to the island's ancient language.

The author Dr Harry Tomlinson said it was based on materials used to give lessons to pupils at Forest School and the book was primarily for children.

The vocabulary covers objects such as fruit and vegetables, and simple conversations such as the weather and numbers.

Dr Tomlinson said all the words were written in English, Guernsey French and phonetics as it is a spoken language.

He said: "Nobody taught Guernsey French so people did not learn to read and write in Guernsey French, those people who wanted to read and write in the 19th Century would have learnt standard French.

"So if they wanted to write something down in Guernsey French very often they would try to do it with standard French which didn't really match the pronunciation.

"It's said differently around the island the same as English is across England."

Dr Tomlinson said the language followed French and English in different circumstances.

He said: "How to tell the time is on the hour and the half hour like the French system but in between it's like the English system so six o'clock is six haeures but five past six is chinq passaï six."

Guernsey French for beginners book - one of the inside pages The book is called Mes prumières paroles en Guernésiais or My first words in Guernsey French

In the 2001 census, the island's last, 2% of the population said they spoke Guernsey French fluently, with about 14% recorded as understanding some.

Dr Tomlinson was born in Lancaster but said he had always had an interest in older languages.

He said: "My first degree was in old French and Anglo-Norman, which was spoken in the English court and I found it fascinating.

"When I came to Guernsey to teach French I discovered there were people speaking a language that I thought had disappeared in the medieval books of 1100, 1200-onwards.

"This is virtually the language of William the Conqueror, if he came back he'd probably understand... it's unique.

"It's older than Castle Cornet and many of the island's ancient monuments so it is something to be treasured."

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