The Malta Independent 21 April 2024, Sunday
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TMID Editorial: Protecting the Maltese language

Thursday, 29 February 2024, 09:56 Last update: about 3 months ago

When in Rome, do as the Romans do, an old adage says.

This is perhaps why the results of a survey which was published last week show that 85 per cent of the Maltese believe that foreigners who live in Malta should learn to speak the Maltese language. At least, they should know the basics so as to be able to communicate.

Such a result is not a surprise.

Over the past decade Malta has become increasingly cosmopolitan, as the number of foreigners living on the islands has shot up dramatically. Many of them are employed in jobs that bring them in contact with Maltese persons on a daily basis – be it in restaurants, shops, hospitals and many more.

Knowing the Maltese language will help them integrate better in our community. To be fair, many of them get by in English, so that makes it less difficult to be understood and understand. But learning Maltese will enable them to be seen as making the effort to become part of the society they are now living in.

We know that, to foreigners, particularly those coming from the rest of Europe and Asia, the Maltese language is difficult to grasp. In this sense, it is easier for people coming from the North Africa and the Middle East. The Maltese language is a unique mixture of tongues, based mostly on Semitic languages, but having picked up so many influences from others languages – both as a result of centuries of occupation and, more recently, a globalised world that has led to all languages getting bombarded by others and, inevitably, being affected by them.

It is good to note that the government is taking steps to see that foreigners who live in Malta are able to communicate better. A skills card that is set to be required by new employees sees that they are able to have the basic knowledge of English. It would not be a bad idea if, once they are given the necessary permits to work here, foreigners are also offered the possibility to follow courses in Maltese.

Having said this, we proceed with the argument that if we are to protect the Maltese language, the Maltese themselves must see to it. It is sad to hear so many Maltese people unable to string a whole sentence together.

This is even worse when it happens on television and on the radio. There have been many occasions when presenters butcher the Maltese language while on air. Even here, standards should be in place so that all those who are leading TV and radio programmes have a solid knowledge of Maltese. Sometimes one cringes when Maltese words are discarded and replaced by others that are a bungled mixture of a foreign word with a Maltese touch.

Languages are constantly evolving and Maltese is not an exception to this. But while it is understandable that the Maltese believe that foreigners living in Malta should make the effort to learn Maltese, it is equally imperative that people who are born and raised here make their own attempt to keep the Maltese language alive.

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