- Languages of Jersey
The Bailiwick of Jersey, a
crown dependencyin the Channel Islands, off the French coast of Normandy, has two official languages: English and French. Traditionally, Jèrriais, a variety of the ancient Norman language, has been the dominant language of the Bailiwick, but the past century has seen a great decline in its use, as well as the use of French.
As a crown dependency of the
English monarch, English has a special place in the island, and is now the dominant, as well as an official, language.
The English language has been allowed in parliamentary debates in the
States of Jerseysince February 2 1900.
Most signs are written in English, sometimes with French or Jèrriais subtitling. There are around 87,000 people in Jersey, and 20% are of British (traditionally English-speaking) descent. Most of the Norman-descended population now speaks English as well. All demographics combined, English is spoken by 94.6% of the population.
Jersey Legal Frenchis the official variety of French used in administration. The States of Jersey is part of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie. The current use of French in the parliament is generally restricted to formalities (prayers, ceremonies, formulas).
Due to proximity, there has been a French-speaking community in Jersey for centuries, though now it has shrunk considerably, although the language is still official. The national anthem,
Ma Normandie, is in the French language. At various points in history the indigenous French-speaking population of Jersey was supplemented by political refugees from France, including for example Victor Hugo.
The last French-language newspaper in Jersey, "Les Chroniques de Jersey", closed at the end of 1959.
Jèrriais, sometimes referred to as "Jersey French" or "Jersey Norman French", a variety of Norman, was the dominant language of the Bailiwick for most of its history. Now, however, the language is spoken by around 2,600 of the 87,000 inhabitants of the island, down from 5,720 in 1989. The language is most prominent in rural areas, where the proportions of speakers are highest, although the capital, Saint Helier, has the highest total number of speakers [2001 census] . Around 200 children are learning the language in schools as of 2006, and the " Jersey Evening Post", the island's main newspaper, runs articles in Jèrriais every week. Up to 15% of the island has some understanding of the language. Sercquiais, a descendant of Jèrriais spoken by settlers from Jersey in Sark, is also near the brink of extinction, with fewer than 20 native speakers.
Immigrants of Portuguese (mostly
Madeiran) ethnicity make up 6.4% of Jersey, according the the CIA World Factbook, and the language is used by 4.6% of the total population, and is commonly used in signage, notices, and the like.
*CIA WFB 2006
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