Jersey

Jersey language translation for Alice in Wonderland

  • 17 February 2012
  • From the section Jersey
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Geraint Jennings has been working on a translation of the book since 1999

Lewis Carroll's classic children's book Alice in Wonderland is being translated into Jersey's native language, Jerriais.

In it, Alice is now a girl from Jersey and a number of other characters have been changed.

Jerriais writer Geraint Jennings began translating the book into Jersey's native language in 1999, working on the occasional scene.

He began the full translation a few years ago when he was approached by specialist minority language publisher Evertype.

To make the book work in Jerriais, he has had to do more of an adaptation than a direct translation.

Some characters are different, including the mouse from chapter two that Alice believes is French and has arrived in England with William the Conquerer.

French mouse

In the Jerriais edition, Alice now believes the mouse to have arrived in the island with Baron Phillipe de Rullecourt for the Battle of Jersey.

Mr Jennings said: "[Alice] is familiar with the Battle of Jersey in this version as it would make no sense when she meets the mouse in her lake of tears for her to imagine he speaks French and for him to have come over with William the Conqueror.

"As we know, William the Conqueror didn't speak French, he was a Norman, so I make it that she knows the mouse as a French mouse who came over for the Battle of Jersey."

Jerriais is not a widely spoken language, but is recognised as an official regional dialect for the island.

According to the 2001 census, there were 2,874 people who spoke the language in Jersey which was about 3% of the population, although about 15% said they had some understanding.

There are about 200 children currently learning Jerriais in Jersey schools.

The education department said learning Jerriais had given children a knowledge of "one of the most distinctive aspects of Jersey's culture".

A spokesperson said: "This has enabled them to participate in community activities like the Eisteddfod, as well as enhancing their language skills generally."

Mr Jennings, who also teaches the language, said it would be important to have a work of fiction that children were already familiar with to help them learn.

This is the first full novel to be written in Jerriais. Mr Jennings said the most difficult parts of the translation were the sayings and the play on words.

Fried delicacy

"You've got to find an equivalent which works as something you recognise but is something that is twisted and works in context," he said.

The book uses the original illustrations by John Tenniel but even they had to be adapted to swap English words like "drink me" for the Jerriais equivalent.

A number of phrases had to be adapted because certain English linguistic idiosyncrasies do not work in the island's language.

He also had to play with the title of the book, which in French translates back to "Alice in the land of Wonders".

As wonders in Jersey are a fried delicacy, a bit like a donut, he felt this would bring up the wrong image for native readers.

He said: "I wanted to make it sound more like a country, so used Emervil'lie, which is a verbal noun that could translate as a state of wonderment.

"You could translate it as Alice in a state of wonderment or Alice in a wondering or Alice in a country which happens to be wonderland."

Mr Jennings said he would be releasing Alice Through the Looking Glass next.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites