Language Learning: Sarkese

Language Learning: Sarkese

In this month’s edition we feature a very rare and nearly extinct language: Sarkese. In fact, there are only three native Sarkese speakers alive today.

Sarkese is the native language of the Island of Sark, which is one of the islands in the British Channel and is close to the coast of Normandy, France. The small island has a population of about 500 and can only be accessed by boat.

Sarkese is one of the most archaic Gallo-Romance languages, and because of the island’s remote location, the language retains unique elements from other Gallo-Romance languages.  The language is also called patois by people who live on the island. It is an ancient type of the Norman language that was spoken when the Norse Vikings first settled in Normandy.

Sarkese is not an easy language to learn. There are about 50 vowels, which can cause some words to have multiple pronunciations. Plus, the language has different dialects reflecting different parts of the island.

French is spoken in nearby Normandy, and some of the words in Sarkese are similar to French, such as merci for thank you, but are pronounced differently.

Today, English is the dominant language of the Channel Islands. While English was first spoken on Sark in the 19th Century, it was the spread of television and radio and increased tourism after World War I that more established English on the island.

There are ongoing efforts to document, codify, and save the Sarkese language.

Sarkese is an example of the many languages that are in danger of becoming extinct and the efforts to save them.

For more information on our language services, please contact us or email

Source: BBC “Sarkese: Britain’s archaic Norman language

Image credit: