Here’s a recording of a conversation in a mystery language.
Can you identify the language and where it’s spoken?
Jèrriais, a variety of Norman (Nouormand) from Jersey, in the Channel Islands/les Îles anglo-normandes? Unless it’s guerneseyais or aurignois (?)…
Surprising how much — apart from the southern English accents — the vocabulary and basic phonology are reminiscent of Canadian French. (Even though it is known that Norman is one of the main sources of Canadian French.) I like the typical interdental fricative realisation of the /r/ as in ‘bièthe’ (bière).
I’ll say Jèrriais, mostly because of the typical Norman-French switching of [ ʃ ] and [ k ] by comparison with standard (Parisian) French, and the mention of St. Ouen (which is, I think, a place in Jersey) — but also because of the strong English-accent interference in the speech of the two interlocutors. Is real, native Jèrriais (if that is what it is and the language still exists as a mother tongue) really spoken like that?
I was guessing Jerriais primarily because of the very anglophone quality of the voices. One of the first things I always listen to is the general voice quality and usually that gives me a pretty good geographic or genetic idea.
It sounds to me like French spoken (or even read from a script) by two English actors with only a very rudimentary attempt to make it sound like French. I’ve never heard Channel Island French (as far as I know), but I’d expect it to sound more like a real language and less like something spoken by non-native speakers. The Provençal that I’ve heard sounds like that, i.e. like something learned by French speakers as adults and not like something they learned as their first language.
Norman from one of the Channel Islands. Since everybody says Jèrriais, let me say (checking Wikipedia for spelling…) Dgèrnésiais.
Well, everyone is guessing Jèrriais. hehe just to be different… I’m gona say .. Walloon?
Definitely Jèrriais, and comes from a local station there on Jersey that has a weekly Jèrriais programme. The speakers are probably native to the island, but not native speakers of Jèrriais.
My impression is that the first speaker (with the slightly higher pitched voice) has a slightly more native-like pronunciation. The nasal vowels, especially, are basically the same as in Canadian French and not lowered as happened over the past several centuries in most indigenous varieties of European French (i.e., excluding Occitan French, which started as a second language before the indigenous Occitan was squeezed out over the past century).
Here’s what I managed to decipher from the first few exchanges:
A Tché qu’est la pus belle pareisse en Jèrri?
B Ah! Tché tchestion! Sont-ti (fous?)?
A Probabyement. () su’l radio, ils ont les têtes crotchés.
B (). Mais, tch´qu’tu en penses, latchelle des douze pareisses est la m’illeuthe?
A Ah, pour (), çela(?) devait être Saint-(). () les boutiques, et les beaux grands batisses, et les clubs de nuèt, et les auberges, sont pas (). Ch’est la bonne p’iéche pour avé du fun!
B Oh, (). L’Anville(?) est laid coume le péché du dimanche. Ch’est la pareisse de Saint-Ouen tch’est la plus belle! Y a les landes(?) et les falaises et les fermes! Et () et le châté d’().
Sounds like a close relative of French on the north or east side. At a couple moments it sounded almost Scandinavian to me. Really no idea beyond that.
I know it’s a variety of nourmande, but beyond that I can’t be too sure.
The answer is Jersey Norman (Jèrriais), a Romance language spoken on Jersey (Jèrri), one of the Channel Islands (off the coast of Normandy).
The recording comes from BBC Jersey.
Here’s a transcript and translation of the conversation:
Tch’est qu’est la pus belle pâraîsse en Jèrri?
Which is the most beautiful Parish in Jersey?
Tchi tchestchion! Sont-i’ fos?
What a question. Are they mad?
Probabliément, auve tout ch’t angliaîchîn sus l’radio il’ ont les têtes cratchies.
Probably, with all that English stuff on the radio they’ve gone round the twist.
Véthe-dgia! Mais tch’est qu’tu’en pense? Latchelle des douze Pâraîsses est la miyeuthe?
Yes indeed! But what do you think? Which of the twelve Parishes is the best?
Ah pouor dé mé, chenna dév’thait êt’ St. Hélyi. Auve les boutiques et les bieaux grands bâtisses et les clobes dé niet et les aubèrges – sans pâler
des bangnérêsses – ch’est la bouonne pliaiche pouor aver du fanne.
Oh for me, it’d have to be St. Helier. With the shops and the lovely big buildings and the night clubs and the pubs – not to mention the swimming pools – it’s the right place for having some fun.
Nou-fait-dgia! La Ville est laie comme lé péché du Dînmanche! Ch’est la pâraîsse dé St. Ouën tch’est la pus belle. Y’a les landes et les falaises,
et les fèrmes, et l’Mangni et l’Châté d’Grosnez – et j’avons des vaques.
Not at all! Town is as ugly as sin! It’s the Parish of St. Ouen which is most beautiful. There are heaths and cliffs, and farms, and the Manor and
Grosnez Castle – and we’ve got cows.
Mais j’en avons un tas d’vaques à St. Hélyi – et même tchiqu’s’eunes en méta étout!
But we’ve got a lot of cows in St. Helier – and even some made of metal as well!
Véthe, mais ous avez les grand’s cheunm’nées dé Bellozanne et d’La Collette a dêfidgûther l’Île.
True, but you’ve got the big chimneys of Bellozanne and La Collette disfiguring the Island.
Bein, si les St. Ouennais né veulent pus aver d’l’êlectricité, ni lus bostchots viédgis nitout, les Villais es’sont bein heutheurs.
Well, if the St. Ouennais don’t want any electricity any more, nor their bins emptied either, Town residents will be very happy.
Ch’est bein seux qu’i’ sont mînséthâbl’yes achteu.
It’s quite certain that they are in misery now.
Mînséthâbl’yes? Pouortchi don?
Misery? Why though?
Pa’ce qu’i’ n’démeuthent pon à St. Ouën!
Because they don’t live in St. Ouen!
Mais tchi dgiâbl’ye qu’i’ y’a à faithe à St. Ouën?
But what the devil is there to do in St. Ouen?
Y’a les courses ès j’vaux, et pis les grèves – y’a un tas d’jannes gens tchi font d’la seurféthie à L’Êta et à la Grève dé Lé.
There are the horse races, and then the beaches – there are a lot of youngsters who go surfing at L’Étacq and at Grève de Lecq.
Ah, j’sis trop vyi, mé, pouor aller seurfer.
Oh, I’m too old to go surfing.
Et mé j’sis trop vyi pouor vos clobes dé niet. T’en vas tu béthe eune fais?
And I’m too old for your nightclubs. Fancy a drink?
Pouortchi pas? Eune bouonne pînte dé biéthe pouor mé s’i’ t’pliaît.
Why not? A good pint of beer for me please.
Et deux d’gouts d’cidre mé f’thait du bein.
And a drop of cider would do me good.
You can hear more Jèrriais on the Office du Jèrriais YouTube Channel.
This is interesting. I had never heard Jèrrias before. As a French, I can understand some of it. It’s funny, it sounds like French spoken by Englishmen.
At first I thought they were just fooling around, saying each sentence in a different language – some sounded like French, many English words could be heard, I thought I heard something in Portuguese (but that was probably the French nasalization). Near the end I thought I heard Dutch – a word that sounds like “mij” repeated a couple of times.
Can you translate the text into English?
Jan – there is already an English translation under the Jèrriais in italics.
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