Malta and Languages
Every country has its linguistic quirks, and even though there are less than a million souls living on the Maltese Islands, my country is certainly not an exception! Even though the population is relatively small, Malta is one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the entire European Union.
I strongly suggest everyone to have a look at the European Commission Eurobarometer 2006 survey on “Europeans and their languages”, which gives a very in-depth review of where we stand next to other EU countries
Malta is a bilingual country where both Maltese and English are official languages, and the population has a 97% fluency in Maltese and 88% fluency in English – the latter being the second highest fluency for all EU countries! Furthermore, 66% of Maltese are fluent in Italian, and a further 17% are fluent in French.
Apart from this fact, the Eurobarometer survey also indicated that 98% of Maltese citizens (highest in all of the EU) feel that they have enough choices when in come to the selection of languages in schools. In fact, students can sit for the following languages as part of their SEC examinations (GCSE level):
Arabic, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Latin, Maltese, Russian and Spanish
What is a Maltism?
This brings me to the infamous Maltism. The majority of Maltese people speak both English and Maltese fluently, often using these languages interchangeably in everyday conversations. There is also a form of ‘social divide’ attributed to what type of language you speak, with primarily English speakers being labelled as ‘Tal-Pepe’ (preppy or posh), and primarily Maltese speakers being labelled as ‘Hamalli’ (chavs). I find these labels quite dull and dated, especially since we should be celebrating our linguistic capabilities when compared to our European peers.
While I have no quarrels with how a person chooses to express themselves, I do enjoy seeing how an English speaking Maltese person attempts to translate certain Maltese sayings into English form…
THIS is where a Maltism is born – when you get a Maltese expression or saying and attempt to translate it into English, often with a disastrous and hilarious outcome.
So for those wondering, the definition of a Maltism is a ‘grammatically incorrect translation of a Maltese expression into English, applicable for the singular contextual use amongst Maltese people’
I have to confess that I am also guilty of using such Maltisms, which are quite funny when used in Malta since they contain a certain context…but I have since discovered that you sound like an utter idiot when you attempt to use them in the UK or other English speaking countries!
And so, I have decided to share some of these Maltisms for the amusement of my fellow readers. I also hope that any foreigners who have ended up in a conversation with a group of English speaking Maltese people would also benefit from these!