Some Malteasers

▪️ Some Malteasers ▪️ A case of ‘Only in Malta’?

Given this contributor has already written about the state of the Maltese language today and the enemies – within and without – it has to deal with on a daily basis, last week’s National Forum on the Maltese Language organised by the Maltese Language Centre was of particular interest.

We may have this widely-recognised bilingual streak in all of us, a result of whole centuries of foreign domination, but in truth we are at the same time very proud of the national language, that distinguishes us from the rest, gives us a truly national identity, and epitomises our sense of freedom and sovereignty gained in two separate phases – Independence in 1964 and Freedom in 1979, with the founding of the Republic (1974) in between.

Vincent Marmarà’s masterly survey on the use of Maltese and other languages among us must have shocked the doubters and brought the hapless community of people in high and influential places, such as civil servants, teachers, politicians, journalists, broadcasters, and bloggers, to their senses. With 95+ per cent of responders from a sizeable sample of 600 declaring Maltese as their main means of communication, the survey revealed an obvious hint of linguistic resilience which other small languages may have already lost.

Statistician Vincent Marmarà

It is now really a question of how to tackle the problem of gradual loss, especially when dealing with Generation X. Too many of us realise we are actually being sweetly bullied into speaking in English to children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces because that is what is being fed in massive doses to them at school, shopping malls, and other activities. Put one foreign boy or girl in an activity, and the organisers will automatically switch to English. Some call it respect, I call it banal. Children learn languages incredibly fast and foreigners who are earning their livelihoods among us, I am sure, would not mind seeing their offspring learning Maltese and integrating much faster.

This in no way means we should neglect the teaching of English. That issue has long been deliberated and rightly buried. The whole world is shifting to learning American English. You only have to watch some Italian TV programmes and adverts to realise this, and they have perhaps the most beautiful language in the world.

It is our ridiculous mindset that worries many people. Top scholars and linguists everywhere have argued that learning another language or two does not and should not interfere with the use and protection of the vernacular. But, as with everything, we have to be more catholic than the Pope.

Back to the forum, I was expecting to see some old academic faces who have made the learning of Maltese – even for children from working-class, strictly Maltese-speaking families – a nightmare. What with their horrible choice of text books that only deal with doom and gloom, religious fairy tales, and the same old, boring stories from almost a century ago? I hardly spotted a single one.

Not surprisingly, Dr Joanna Spiteri, chief executive of the Broadcasting Authority, came in for quite a barrage of accusations and comments. She did her best to mitigate the impact from the blitz, but it is the Authority as a whole that has been responsible for the shockingly lenient treatment of stations, station owners, and broadcasters who, bereft of even a hint of professionalism, show utter disrespect for the national language by shedding their Constitutional responsibilities. How? In all manners – grammatical errors, orthography, scripts, dialogue in live discussions, and a nauseating reference in English to such things as numbers, days of the week, months, clothes, sizes, colours, currencies etc. Has the Authority lost heart completely, or does it prefer to look away from the tragic scene?

Kudos to the Maltese Language Centre for putting on the forum. Just don’t let it be a one-off. It would be a good idea if the centre goes into a liaison relationship with the Welsh language authorities in Cardiff where so much is being achieved in the salvage operation of another small language.

Last-minute salvo: is there some hidden reason why most of the backdrops to ministerial Press conferences and other official gatherings are in English, while the new, most welcome, modern public cleansing machines are decorated with public-awareness slogans in Maltese?

A case of ‘Only in Malta’?

The extraordinary case of the vanishing laptop belonging to former Marsaxlokk parish priest Fr Luke Seguna, who is accused of fraud and money-laundering, from what is or should be a law courts strongroom is as bemusing as it is  incomprehensible. The good father has submitted a petition in court, insisting the issue breaches his fundamental right to a fair hearing.

But who went into the strongroom, if it is not just a normal, easily accessible room, and why? The mind boggles. As the common adage goes, only in Malta.

Incidentally, there still is the story of another laptop gone missing from the grasp of the Maltese judicial system. It’s in Germany. Once again, one wonders who and why….

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