The Malta Independent 22 February 2024, Thursday
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TMID Editorial: Preserving the Maltese language

Thursday, 25 May 2023, 10:06 Last update: about 10 months ago

What President George Vella said a few weeks ago underscores a growing concern that the Maltese language is being lost, or at least not being given the importance that it deserves.

“If people write to us in Maltese, we should continue the correspondence in Maltese,” he told a conference organised as part of a campaign to raise more awareness about the beauty of our language and the need to preserve it.


President Vella made it clear that his was not a call to do away with bilingualism; like everyone else, he knows that the common use of the English language is a powerful tool in the advancement of the nation, and gives Maltese people an advantage over others who do not speak it.

But it is clear that the Maltese language, being “alive and ever-changing”, is bombarded from various quarters and, unless we take the necessary care, it will suffer the consequences.

Our language continues to be affected by the presence of other tongues – both through the media and the numerous television stations that are available in so many languages, and also through a heavier influx of foreigners who are coming to Malta for work.

Today, it is common that Maltese patrons have to speak English in restaurants and other outlets, mostly because the staff working there are foreigners who do not speak Maltese. It is a good thing when these foreigners who come over to Malta to live here make an effort to learn our language. Many times we come across foreigners who, it is noticed, do their best to integrate themselves more in our culture, and learning the Maltese language is one way of making this easier.

It is sad to, then, meet others, including many nationals who were born and bred here, who do not have a solid grasp of Maltese and find it hard to string one sentence. Conversely, many Maltese who have gone to live abroad have made it a point to keep the Maltese language alive and pass it on to the next generations.

Over the years, we have lost traditional Maltese words and replaced them by foreign ones. But, as the President said in his address, “we want language to continue to develop in new ways of communication and to take in new words as well. But we need to put the brakes on the way (language) is being misused, because it is being contaminated without control”.

There is a risk that the Maltese language finds itself in the showcase of our culture, and becomes a language of a museum, Vella said. But if it becomes a museum piece it will die.

The President is right to say that the media – that which uses Maltese as its language – plays a big part. It is frustrating to hear bad Maltese being used on our television and radio stations, and on newspapers and their online versions.

The Maltese language is part of us. We should be proud that, in spite of our small size, we have a language of our own. We should be doing our best to keep it alive.


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