Maltese is just beautiful. This is how I, a Swedish national, feel about the Maltese language. I started learning Maltese properly in September 2020, from Scotland. A year later, I returned to Malta feeling very different from when I first left. When I visited and lived in Malta in the past, I was unable to understand the language. This time, however, I could communicate with the people of Malta and Gozo in Maltese: a new experience for me. In this article, I will explain why I chose to learn Maltese, how I have learnt it, and how it feels now that I am able to communicate with it. Finally, I will have a look at my doctoral research in Maltese-English bilingualism.
My interest in Maltese was sparked by a desire to understand the language I was getting exposed to. I had lived in Malta for four years before leaving to study Psychology in England and Scotland, but every time I returned, I really wished I could understand and speak the national language of a country I consider a second home. Above all, I wished to integrate better into society and delve deeper into the culture. I, thus, decided to learn Maltese. Now, I enjoy using Maltese in my daily life and participating in activities held in Maltese, especially when Maltese and Gozitan people reply in Maltese. I feel more part of society, and I am filled with enthusiasm. It is as though I have entered a new world where I can experience and feel in a different way the link between the people of the Maltese islands. I dive into the language; it is as if I used to look at the sea from above, and now I am discovering the beauty of the colours and life beneath the surface. It is a wonderful experience that fills me with energy.
Ever since I started learning Maltese, my fascination with the beauty of the language has grown. To my mind, some of the most beautiful aspects of the Maltese language are the structure of the words and how the language is woven. For instance, that part of the language using the root (għerq) and forms is interesting and different from the way languages I am familiar with, such as Romance and Germanic languages, function. That the root is composed only of consonants is fascinating, as is the way words all linked to the same basic idea are bound by the same root. Such beautiful interconnections have also helped me to recognise new words. Often, I come across words I have never heard or read before, but I can guess the definition from the root and the context. The Maltese language is beautiful also because it reflects Malta’s history, through those elements deriving from Arabic, Sicilian, Italian, and English. I also like the melody of the language. I cherish the Maltese language and look forward to continuing the learning journey of this beautiful language.
I learnt – and am still learning – Maltese through various methods. Between September 2020 and September 2021, I learnt Maltese from Scotland. I own some grammar books that have helped me understand how the Maltese language functions. I studied several words and practised basic sentence structures. I also used books which include excerpts and dialogue, and I enjoyed practising pronunciation by reading aloud. Since the pronunciation of certain words in Maltese, particularly those spelt with ‘q’, can be difficult for me, listening to dialogue and stories as well as reading the same extracts aloud were a great help. Having audio versions as well as the written text of the same story, dialogue, or excerpt also proved very useful. Listening to the language is extremely important for me. In fact, when learning Maltese in Scotland, I spend a lot of time listening to spoken language on TV and the radio, even whilst doing chores. I started with children’s TV programmes and, at first, I was unable to understand much. However, in time, I began to understand more and more.
I take online lessons once a week. During the lessons I took in my first year, I read several stories aloud. I would study new words and expressions between lessons and reread the stories aloud. Aside from this, I had ample opportunity to practise spontaneous conversation. I still read and listen to new stories, but this year I have been focusing more on oral skills by practising conversation and learning new words and expressions. I would like to thank my teachers, Sarah Caruana and Elaine Spiteri; their lessons were and are still my favourite part of the Maltese learning experience from Scotland.
When I returned to Malta, there were plenty of new opportunities to practise the language. I really enjoy speaking Maltese in my daily life: in the shops, with friends, at the market, with the neighbours, in the street, and many other places. I had the opportunity to take some Maltese lessons at the University of Malta, thanks to Dr Michael Spagnol and Prof. Manwel Mifsud who welcomed me into their lecture rooms. Aside from listening, reading, and speaking, I try to write in Maltese as often as possible. For instance, I really enjoy writing emails and messages in Maltese. In this way, I continue learning Maltese here in Malta and using the Maltese language in my daily life.
I am currently doing my doctorate in Maltese-English bilingualism and the use of the language in Malta. To be more precise, I am researching the use of Maltese and English within different contexts and situations, and how these are linked to attention, memory, and the decisions we make. The research is a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and the University of Malta. I am looking for participants aged 18 and over to participate in my research: people who speak both Maltese and English, and others who speak English but do not speak or understand Maltese. If you wish to participate or ask any questions, please contact me on email@example.com for more information.
The Maltese language is very close to my heart, and I look forward to continuing my studies and using this beautiful language.
Jessica Schulz is a Swedish researcher and speaker of Maltese. This article forms part of the campaign ‘l-ilsien Malti għal qalbi’, organised by the Office of the President and the Maltese language organisations. This is a translation of an article written in Maltese.