Jèrriais, the native language of Jersey, Channel Islands, is making a resurgence in schools and literature, and is now a language option on Facebook. Also called Jersey French, Jèrriais is a form of the Norman language, increasingly being replaced with English. As the population ages, fewer and fewer residents speak the language; only about 3% of the population speak Jèrriais fluently. Recognized as an official dialect, Jèrriais is in danger of extinction: A Cambridge University study concluded that the language was in danger of dying out completely. The government is responding.
Primary school students in Jersey are being introduced to Jèrriais as part of a new course. As part of the citizenship curriculum, year four students will complete six lessons, and eight and nine year olds receive a CD and booklet. The curriculum focuses on aspects of Jersey culture including geography, nature, history, and local music. Currently, there are about 200 children learning Jèrriais in Jersey schools. BBC Radio Jersey and The Jersey Evening Post have provided forums for speaking and writing in Jèrriais, which has helped to keep the issue and the language alive.
Providing literature in the native language is one way to teach kids the language. Lewis Carroll’s classic, Alice in Wonderland, is being translated into Jèrriais. What child doesn’t love this classic English treasure? Some of the characters and language had to be changed. The book is not a word for word translation rather an ode to the classic where Alice is now a little girl from Jersey. A direct translation of the title would be, Alice in the land of Wonders. The author, Geraint Jennings, will follow this book will a translation of Alice Through the Looking Glass. Perhaps Wind in the Willows will be next. This is the first full novel to be written in the language, and social media is not far behind.
Facebook the world’s largest social networking added Jèrriais as a language option in December 2011. All the functions of Facebook have been translated into Jèrriais. Facebook saw it as an oversight of their mapping system which has now been corrected with the addition of Jèrriais.