Guernsey French/The Death of Guernsey French

Guernesiais was the chief language of the island until the 1800s, with trade and tourists making the adoption of English essential. Yet this was still chiefly in the capital and main port St Peter Port - outside, Guernesiais dominated homes and local markets.

A study undertaken in 1926 indicated that this was mostly still the case - there were few speakers in the trading towns St Peter Port and St Sampsons, but dominated in the south and west.[1]

In the 30s and 40s, there were many who could still not speak English, and during the German occupation Guernesiais was used to communicate when in fear of being overheard. However, 1940 also saw the evacuation of the majority of the island's children to England - and when they returned in 1945, the old language was unfamiliar to them. The loss of the language to this new generation was significant in determining its downfall.

Increased contact with the outside world required for modernity came increasingly at the price of language. Tourism gradually became a major industry, and media from outside the islands made English increasingly prevalent.

Today, it is estimated that less than 2% of the population speak Guernsey French.



  1. <Sjögren (1964 : xiv–xviii, sourced from, originally by Encyclopedia of the Languages of Europe Edited by: Glanville Price>