The Malta Independent 5 March 2024, Tuesday
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Maltese

Owen Bonnici Friday, 9 February 2024, 09:38 Last update: about 24 days ago

The recently established Ċentru tal-Ilsien Malti organized a discussion on digital tools for languages spoken in small countries. The event featured the esteemed participation of the President of the Republic of Latvia Edgars Rinkēvičs, who was on a State Visit to Malta.

Both Malta and Latvia have their own language - Maltese and Latvian respectively - and both are recognised as official languages in the European Union. While Maltese and Latvian are spoken by the majority of the population in the respective countries, they are utilised by an absolute minority on a Europe-wide scale. This means that the respective Governments of countries such as Malta and Latvia and other small States need to do more to make sure that their languages are safeguarded and keep prospering.

Our language is not merely a means of communication; it defines our identity and shapes our culture. Despite being a minority language globally and in Europe, Maltese can take pride in thriving among the other languages in the world.

Several studies underscore the vitality of the Maltese language, emphasizing the need to preserve it across all age groups, both locally and among Maltese living abroad. It is a unique language - bringing together the semitic and romance traditions. It is not only a communication tool but also essential for artistic expression, traditions, and culture.

Maltese is the language of every Maltese and Gozitan, serving as our national language, alongside English. It is also the official sign language in our country. Various entities, including public broadcasters, government cultural bodies, heritage sites, libraries, and national archives, support the Maltese language. This support extends to musical events that attract the public, such as the Mużika Mużika festival.

All these entities are encouraged to use and promote the Maltese language through initiatives, programmes, and financial schemes aimed at preserving our unique identity. Maltese plays a crucial role in cohesion, integration, and inclusion, not only for locals but also for foreigners living and working in Malta.

Efforts are being made to increase the teaching of the Maltese language and appreciation of our literature and culture. This aligns with the goal of internationalizing our cultural policies. The use of Maltese in schools is vital not only for language retention but also to ensure that our linguistic heritage, recognized 90 years ago as an official language alongside English, remains intact.

Malta, as the smallest EU member state, successfully advocated for Maltese to become one of the 24 official languages of the European Union 20 years ago. English, our other official language, is used alongside Maltese, reflecting the linguistic diversity resulting from globalization.

As a Government, we are committed to supporting projects for the development and distribution of linguistic tools that facilitate the use of the Maltese language, especially in education and daily public services. Various ministries are investing in digital infrastructure to enhance the role of Maltese in technology.

Despite challenges, the Maltese language is benefiting from initiatives like the use of artificial intelligence, where researchers and investors are contributing to linguistic advancements. Collaboration between public entities, the University of Malta, the Malta Digital Innovation Authority, the Malta Information Technology Agency, Malta Enterprise, and private sector companies is crucial for the ongoing development of digital tools for the Maltese language.

As a Government, we are also actively participating in EU-supported projects, such as the collaboration with Latvia in providing free translation services through the translation.mt website. This project involves various entities, including the University of Malta, the State Advocate's Office, the Malta Information Technology Agency, and the Latvian company Tilde. This collaboration aims to enhance efficiency in legal services and promote linguistic diversity.

Looking towards the future, there is potential for the translation.mt platform to expand its services beyond legal contexts into areas like health, the environment, economy, finance, and culture. We need to keep contributing to the preservation and promotion of the Maltese language through innovative publications and digital tools.

A few words about the Ċentru tal-Ilsien Malti, which has been recently established under the headship of Norma Saliba. In the last six months, the Centre has engaged in constructive consultations with entities involved in Maltese language work, artificial intelligence, information technology, research, and public administration. The forum held at Spazju Kreattiv in Valletta, which was organised by the Centre, brought together various stakeholders working in Maltese, artificial intelligence, information technology, research, and public administration.

This is all very important. We need to do more and we need all hands on deck. I would like to take the opportunity to also thank the National Council for the Maltese Language for their important contribution to this mission.

Now the focus is on the upcoming National Forum on the Maltese Language. The forum, which will also be organised by the Ċentru tal-Ilsien Malti, will provide a platform for constructive discussions on how to strengthen and promote our unique language. The forum aims to contribute to a holistic plan to ensure the continued vitality of the Maltese language for current and future generations, preserving our distinctive characteristics and unique identity.

CARNIVAL 2024

Final preparations are currently in full swing for the highly anticipated Carnival in Valletta. The excitement is kicking in as Carnival companies diligently engage in their last-minute rehearsals, perfecting their performances to dazzle the audience. Simultaneously, volunteers are putting the finishing touches on their beautiful creations, adding a touch of artistic flair to the festivities set to unfold in our beloved capital.

As we witness these meticulous last-minute touches being applied to both the performances and floats, it becomes evident that this dedication serves a greater purpose. Beyond the glitter and glamour, these efforts contribute significantly to the preservation and dissemination of our cultural heritage. The Carnival, with its vibrant traditions and artistic expressions, stands as a testament to the rich tapestry of our national identity.

This year, we went one step further as we tried our best to see the Karnival ta' Malta in as many communities as possible. The Ħamrun Carnival has already been a huge success, for instance. The Zurrieq Carnival took place yesterday and so on and so forth. A huge thank you goes also to our Gozitan friends who really know how to organise a really good Carnival!

In extending my gratitude, I wish to express sincere appreciation to the countless volunteers and individuals involved in orchestrating this spectacular event. Their unwavering commitment and tireless efforts are instrumental in ensuring the seamless execution of yet another edition of Carnival. It is their passion for cultural celebration that transforms the streets and squares of our country into lively canvases, where the essence of our collective identity is vividly portrayed.

We have done our part. Let us hope that the only factor which do not have control upon - the weather - follows suit!

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