The President of Malta

The experience of a foreigner who learned Maltese on his own in four years

My name is Adam Young. I was born in Hungary, I have a British citizenship and I live in England. I also have a great passion for languages. One language that I have a massive passion for is Maltese.

My adventure with Maltese started in 2019 when I decided to learn more about this language that I had already heard of but had never read about. I was immediately fascinated by it because it contains a mixture of two very different language families – the Romance language and the Semitic language. I find this fact, and the way in which they are integrated into Maltese grammar, very interesting. The possibility to say a sentence full of words from Italian and Sicilian followed by a sentence whose words are all derived from Arabic, or a sentence merging the vocabulary of both language families is something I consider unique.

When I started learning Maltese on my own, I realised that through my broad knowledge of Romance languages and my little knowledge of Arabic, I soon got used to the specific aspects of Maltese. I had an advantage because I was already familiar with most of the vocabulary and many of the words of Arabic origin. Thus, I could skip the stage of learning basic words and phrases, and instead look for resources such as grammar books to broaden my knowledge. To expose myself to the language, I started reading the news in Maltese on TVM News and One News, particularly about current international events to learn new words and phrases, but also about current events in Malta to find out more about the Maltese culture. Besides reading, I like to watch videos in Maltese, for example documentaries about the Maltese islands and their history, or television series to get used to the way language is spoken in everyday life.

I do not live in Malta but last year, in 2022, I had the pleasure of visiting Malta for the first time. As soon as I landed in the country, I committed myself to using Maltese as much as possible by speaking to people in their own language instead of using English, as tourists usually do. It was a great experience to practice the language with the people and to see them all surprised when they hear a foreigner speak to them in Maltese. This holiday in Malta strengthened my passion for the Maltese language, a unique language that reflects the history of the Maltese islands and their various rulers over the centuries.

I am a translator, and I would very much like to work in the Maltese language. I believe that it should have a wider presence in technology, for example in websites and in operating systems, so that people feel more comfortable using it in such instruments instead of English. I would like to be able to contribute to the growth and strengthening of the Maltese language. I believe that, although bilingualism in Malta is an advantage, the use of English should not harm the national language – the Maltese language should be cherished.

This article forms part of the campaign ‘l-ilsien Malti għal qalbi’, organised by the Office of the President and the Maltese language organisations. The author wrote the original article in Maltese. The English version is a translation.

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