Jèrriais could be used to boost tourism, says teacher

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The call from Geraint Jennings comes as the Scottish government launches a new tourism strategy based on the distinctiveness and history of the Gaelic language.

The Scottish Tourism Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, launched her country’s plan saying: ‘By boosting awareness and use of Gaelic within the Scottish tourism sector, we provide an authentic experience and we benefit the economy through attracting more visitors to Scotland.’

Mr Jennings, who writes poetry and prose in Jèrriais, believes Jersey should follow suit.

He said: ‘As we see elsewhere, language is a unique selling point. Why do people go to Scotland? It has its food, drink, landscape, nature, culture, and one distinguishing aspect is its languages. Gaelic in the Highlands and Islands makes them distinct.

‘All tourism destinations need something distinctive as you can always fly somewhere cheaper, sunnier or warmer.’

He said that Jersey was well placed to follow in the Scottish government’s footsteps.

‘The tourists you attract with cultural offerings including museums, heritage, performing and visual arts mustn’t exclude language. We don’t make enough of Jèrriais. It’s a unique selling point for Jersey.

‘It is a descendent of the language of William the Conquerer. We have that living link with something identifiable yet we’re doing nothing about it. It’s about selling a place and an identity.’

The chairman of Visit Scotland, Lord Thurso, said: ‘It is vital that Scotland is able to provide a memorable and unique visitor experience to keep up with ever-changing consumer demands and Gaelic has the potential to be a key – but as yet under-used – ingredient in the Scottish tourism and cultural offer.’

Mr Jennings wants Jersey’s government to take action.

He said: ‘I think it’s got to come from the government in terms of an overall strategy, including to promote signage and ensuring Jèrriais is visible. Then you have something to show to tourists. It’s very disappointing, with new very expensive refurbishment at the harbour, that there wasn’t more space for Jèrriais. We need arms-length organisations, government and the private sector working together to be part of an overall strategy.’

However, the idea has received a lukewarm response from Visit Jersey.

The tourist body’s chief executive officer, Keith Beecham, said: ‘One of the reasons this makes sense for Scotland is that there remain areas where the language is relevant – the same cannot be said of any area in Jersey.’

He added: ‘That doesn’t mean to say there is no relevance in places like the Museum and other heritage sites showcasing Jèrriais as a part of Jersey’s rich heritage and describing to visitors those aspects of life that the language still touches perhaps, today, in written rather than spoken form. We need to be careful about centring a campaign on Jèrriais, only for visitors to turn up and discover that it was not something they could experience.’

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