The Malta Independent 16 October 2019, Wednesday

Language bodies say Maltese as a foreign language document positive, but raise some concerns

Sunday, 6 October 2019, 14:02 Last update: about 9 days ago

Twelve bodies involved with Maltese and English languages have raised some concerns with the document entitled "The National Policy for the Teaching of Maltese as a Foreign Language in the Framework of Bilingualism and Plurilingualism 2019" published by the Ministry for Education and Employment.

The document views the bilingual and, to a certain extent, multilingual situation in the country in a positive and healthy way, acknowledging its advantages for the cognitive process, the organizations said.

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"It stresses the importance of maintaining a balance, beginning with the early school years, between Maltese and English, both in the teaching of these two languages as a subject and also as a means of communication within the classroom and the school in general."

The document also declares that no student should be exempted from learning Maltese and insists that every educator should be qualified either in Maltese or in Maltese as a Foreign Language (MFL) to be able to teach in Maltese, the groups said.

"The policy makes it clear that the teaching of Maltese as a foreign language to those who need it should start from the early years and continue up to secondary level. The possibility envisaged for primary and middle school MFL students with a good command of Maltese to switch to the Maltese path is also positive."

Depending on its success, this arrangement would not only constitute a powerful means for Maltese to keep its place as the national language, but it would also serve as a means of integration leading to greater social harmony and cohesion, they added.

"We agree that migrant children/students (with two non-Maltese parents/custodians) should be given the opportunity and the resources to learn Maltese as a foreign language. But we cannot agree that "registration for the learning of MFL should be open to migrant children/students, and, on a voluntary basis, to children/students with one parent/guardian in possession of a foreign ID card".

"Neither do we agree that 'migrant children, or those who have one parent in possession of a foreign ID card, should be assessed, before entering the third year of primary school (at 7 years of age), to determine whether they require lessons in MFL or in Maltese.' The reason is that children/students living in Malta with only one Maltese parent/custodian are in an ideal situation to learn Maltese and to study it as a native language, thereby achieving integrated bilingualism with an adequate knowledge of both languages."

The document also mentions the SEC in MFL but gives no indication whatsoever on whether this SEC in MFL and "the Maltese language exam" will have the same standing, that is, whether they will be rated at the same MQF level, the groups added.

"We cannot agree that these two exams should have the same rating because, of their very nature, they cannot have the same degree of knowledge. Moreover, the document does not indicate whether a student with an O level in MFL would be allowed to continue with the study of Maltese at Intermediate and Advanced level on the strength of this qualification. This is another point we disagree with."

The argued that there is no doubt that if this positive proposal is placed in the local context as a whole, it can give rise to negative applications "which we have to forestall at the outset. Thus it is not right that a student with a qualification in MFL be allowed to join the University and even to register for courses which have Maltese as a prerequisite. Nor is it right to come up with alternative exams in Maltese for entry into University. This would result in a lowering of the level of Maltese at ordinary level and as a prerequisite for entry into the highest academic institution of the country."

The groups that signed the statement are the National Council for the Maltese Language, Department of Maltese (UM), Department of English (UM), Department of Maltese, Junior College (UM), Department of English, Junior College (UM), Institute of Linguistics and Language Technology (UM), L-Akkademja tal-Malti, L-Għaqda tal-Malti - Università, L-Għaqda tal-Qarrejja tal-Provi tal-Malti, L-Għaqda tal-Għalliema tal-Malti, Inizjamed, L-Għaqda Poeti Maltin

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