After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, Norman French became the official language used at court and by the nobles. It was three hundred years before ‘English’ became the official language of England, and by this time a lot of Norman French words had been added to English.

In Guernsey however the local people continued speaking Norman. It gradually changed into a distinct local language and indeed, words and pronunciations used in the north of the island can differ from those in the west of the island. Sark, Alderney and Jersey all developed their own variations of Norman.

Until the late 19th Century Guernesiais had never been written down and was only a spoken dialect used by the country people, many of whom could of course not read or write.

In this article we look at some useful Guernesiais words and phrases, the phonetic pronunciations given here are only approximate.

Greetings and Farewells

English Guernesiais
Good day!
(formal)
Baon-jour! (higher parishes h.p.)
Banjoor (Phonetic) (the T is like the’s’ in ‘leisure’)
Good day!
(formal)
Bon-jour (lower parishes l.p.)
Bawn joor (Phonetic)
Good evening! Baen souaer! (h.p.) Bon souer! (l.p.)
Ban swar (h.p.) Bawn swer (l.p.) (Phonetic) (the ‘ae’ in ‘Baen’ is like the ‘a’ in ‘cat’, the ‘e’ in ‘souer’ is like the ‘e’ in ‘tent’).
Good bye! À la perchôine!
Ah lah pershoin (Phonetic) (the ‘a’ in ‘a’ and ‘lah’ is like the
‘a’ in ‘hard’. The first ‘e’ in ‘pershôine’ is like the ‘e’ in ‘tent’).
Good-night! Bouan gniet!
Bwawnyeh (Phonetic)
Good bye! À bétaot (h. p.) bétot (l. p.)
ah betow (h.p.) betoe (l.p.)

Phrases Concerning Health

English Guernesiais
How are you? Coum tchi qu’l’affaire va?
Cawm cheek lafair vah?
Very well thank you, and you? Enn amas bian merci, et dauve vous?
Enamah byaw mer see, eh dauv voo?
Capital! V’la qui vaout (h.p.) vaut (l.p.)
Vla ki vow (h.p.) voe (l.p.)
Not too bad. Pas trop mal.
Pah traw mal (the ‘a’ in ‘mal’ is pronounced like the ‘a’ in ‘hard’).
Like and old man. Coum aen viaer (h.p.) vier (l.p.)
Cawm aen vyar (h.p.) vyer (l.p.). (‘aen’ is pronounced like the ‘a’
in ‘cat’ but is more nasalized).
Like an old woman. Coum énne vieille.
Cawm en vyail.
One musn’t complain. I’ faut pas s’pllôinde.
Ee foe pah spyoind.
How are you? L’affaire va-t-all’?
Lafair vah tal (the ‘a’ in ‘va’ and ‘all” is like the ‘a’ in ‘hard’

Phrases concerning the weather

English Guernesiais
It’s fine today! I’ fait bael ogniet!
Ee feh bal awnyeh!
It’s wonderful weather! I’ fait magnifique temps!
Ee feh magnifeek taw(The ‘a’ in magnifique is like the ‘a’ in ‘hard’).
It’s warm. I’ fait caoud (h.p.) caud (l.p.)
Ee feh cow (h.p.) coe (l.p.)
It’s sunny. I’ fait du soleil.
Ee feh dou solay. (The ‘o’ in ‘soleil’ is like the ‘ou’ in ‘ought’).
It’s raining. I’ plleut.
Ee pyeu. (The ‘eu’ in ‘plleut’ is like the ‘u’ in ‘curt’).
It’s cold. I’ fait fré.
Ee feh freh.

Various words and expressions.

English Guernesiais
Yes Oui (h.p. and l.p.)
Wi.
Yes Oué (h.p.)
Weh.
Yes of course Oui dja or Oué dja.
Wi jah or Weh jah.
Yes (verily so). Vère.
Ver.(The first ‘e’ in Vère is like the ‘e’ in ‘yes’).
Yes, I certainly agree. Vère dja.
Ver jah.
Yes, that is certain. Si-est.
Syih.
No. Naon.
Nah. (The ‘aon’ in ‘Naon’ is like the ‘a’ in ‘cat’ but is more nasalised).
Definitely no! Naon dja!
Nah jah!
Definitely no. Nen-nin.
Naw-na. (the ‘in’ in ‘nin’ is like the ‘a’ in ‘cat’).
Most definitely no. Nen-nin dja.
Naw-najah.