The Malta Independent 17 May 2021, Monday

Using Maltese in all sectors of society: Protecting our national language

Therese Bonnici Saturday, 22 November 2014, 09:34 Last update: about 7 years ago

The National Council for Maltese language was established to adopt and promote a lanuguage society for the benefit and development of the national language. It was set up to ensure that the language is used in all possible sectors of society.

The council is also responsible for updating the orthography of our national language, which has, over the years developed

The council is embarking on projects to ensure that the Maltese language is more exposed to visitors. "Road signs, formal letters, wedding invitations, and government web sites - they're all in English. Our language is a huge part of who we are. We should show it off, and trigger tourists' curiosity about a small island having its own language. As soon as one enters our international airport, s/he is welcomed with signs in English. Why can't it be in both languages?" Prof. Fabri asks.

Although the members of the council are responsible for protecting the Maltese language, they stress the importance of bilingualism. "Let's be clear, learning English in the correct manner is equally important. Malta needs to raise its English proficiency standards to allow for a competitive edge, one which attracts investment and places us on a global sphere. But we should protect our national language. In an ideal world, our society would be exposed to both English and Maltese in the same manner.

"Ideally, one parent speaks to the children in English and the other in Maltese - that is the perfect model. But one often hears parents trying to combine both languages, and they do so in the wrong way. That is worse, because the child is not learning any of the languages adequately. There needs to be consistency."

The council has also come up with resources, allowing for the promotion of the Malteselanguage, including calendars for schools and nursery rhymes in Maltese. It also offers proof-reading courses and orthography courses for parents who want to update their skills in order to help out their young ones with school work.

Ballun Pinġut is a publication that has 930 definitions of football phrases to help journalists and sport commentators find the best one to describe the action on the football field. The listed phrases were confirmed by a group of experts including a referee, a player, a coach, a football committee member, a fan and a sports journalist.

"We have a tendency to speak in Maltese, but then write in English. School results show there are writing problems in both languages. Most often there is a correlation between both. If one is able to write Maltese properly, he would most often know how to write in English well too. At university, lecturers know that students hold back from asking questions. Often it is because they lack the confidence to speak in public, in one language or the other. We need to ensure that our students are not merely reaching the benchmark to pass assessments, but that they are able to express their ideas and work publicly."

The council is also responsible for updating the orthography of our national language, which has, over the years developed. Technological advancements have resulted in many English words being loaned and transformed into new Maltese words. Some being used on local media have caused controversy, however members of the council note that it is not being exposed enough to the Maltese Language that causes this. "You hear chefs using English words for ingredients and preparation methods, but we have Maltese words for all of those."

The council has now embarked on a digital strategy project, allowing for the creation of a Maltese dictionary and a spell-check. Apps on the IOS system will also have a Maltese keyboard.

In a survey on identity carried out last year, two thirds of respondents said that the Malteselanguage is the greatest signifier of national unity. Seventeen per cent said they speak bothlanguages at home, five per cent speak only English, while 76.4 per cent speak Maltese.



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