Education Minister Evarist Bartolo, in a recent interview, reveals that only 5% of the Maltese population feel comfortable using Maltese when writing, and failing to take any measures to change this will only make matters worse.
It’s a tale as old as time … you attempt to write a proper sentence in Maltese, then that one word with the gh comes in and screws you over. You forget whatever you learned in school and proceed to write in English … because even if you make a mistake there, at least the spell checker has your back.
But as plans for a Maltese spell checker seem to come closer to fruition on a daily basis, the question still stands… are we living in a time where English is slowly taking precedence over the Maltese language?
You might be saying, U le, we teach our kids Maltese and we speak to them in Maltese all the time!
Fair enough yes, but your kids are probably spending most of their time at school, where lessons are mostly conducted in English, and everyone speaks mainly in English to cater for the culturally diverse student sin the class.
They then go home and sit in front of your phone or tablet watching videos in English, and although you might be speaking to them in as much Maltese as you can possibly muster … is it enough to ensure that they will feel as comfortable expressing themselves in Maltese as they do in English?
Now before you jump to the conclusion that the issue lies in the fact that your kids are stuck in some culturally diverse class which is holding them back from speaking their mother tongue … you need to think again, because as a parent you should more than know that really and truly this should make absolutely no difference to your child’s life.
The issue lies deeper, and it’s not something that we can easily fix, because as Malta opens itself up to more foreign businesses, the natural transition from Maltese to English is bound to happen.
Having said that, Education Minisiter Evarist Bartolo argues that, “the “shameful” lack of a law establishing when the Maltese language should be used could have serious consequences given the growing reliance on English.”
But how is that possible when certain situations must be conducted in English because not everyone in the area understands Maltese?
Is it a case of enforcing a scheme where people who move to Malta must spend their first few months learning the language?
Something is already being done about this, as the latest scheme for migrants require them to take up 50 hours of Maltese language lessons and a 150 hours of Maltese culture lessons in order to apply for their residency permit.
But perhaps, enforcing something like that would take away people’s desire to move here.
The issue is much deeper, and we do not yet have a solution to the “problem” at hand, if you can even call it that.
We’re living in a time where in some schools, all lessons are in English, except of course, the Maltese lesson, and even that, at times, has some heavy code-switching involved.
The Minister of Education still argues that “Maltese language should be obligatory in certain situations. The most dangerous thing is that children from a tender age of 18 months onwards are much more exposed to English, as this is the language used on these devices and in a lot of other situations.”
But something is being done so that the Maltese population can strengthen their Maltese skills. A recent scheme will soon give students access to 260 Maltese books in digital form.
No to mention that works are well underway to have a Maltese language spell checker set and ready to go by next year.
What do you think of all this? Do you think there will be a time where Maltese is no longer used?