MIND YOUR LANGUAGE – THE PROBLEM WITH OUR BILINGUALISM

I cringe at the Maltesicising of words derived from English, such as fajerekstingwixer, erkondixiner, xokebzorber and xater, not to mention my all-time favourite, ners, and its plural nersis!

Who wouldn’t?

And hands up those of you who couldn’t figure out fajerekstingwixer straight away. Well, it took me a while too, so you’re in good company. We Maltese have a remarkable talent of moulding foreign words into our language and making them sound like our very own, like the word xarabank, for example, coming from the French chare-á-banc or, xugaman coming from the Italian asciugamano.

But when it comes to words taken from the English language, like the breathtaking examples at the start of this piece, it simply doesn’t work.

Heaven help us now that the Maltese version of Facebook has been launched, and the travesty of the language continues with words like ixxerja and ippowstja.

dubt

 

So you’ll forgive me for laughing incredulously when newspapers run reports with headlines such as “Examiners warn of decline in Maltese” (Times of Malta, June 20, 2016).

Seriously now, what do they expect? What is this obsession with spelling foreign words using the Maltese alphabet? If the overzealous Maltese flag-flying experts cannot come up with a proper equivalent, then the words should be left in the original.

This is not about patriotic fervour. It’s about maintaining the structural nature of our language, and we can start this in our primary schools by teaching our children correct Maltese, thus giving them the confidence to express themselves uninhibitedly in the written and spoken language without saddling them with a ridiculously poached vocabulary, and giving them the false impression that it is the vernacular.

It’s also about teaching correct English. After all, it is an official language too. The Minister of Education recently described bilingualism as part of our Maltese identity. “We need to recognise our linguistic reality, cherish it and even celebrate it.” (Maltatoday, October 5, 2016)

evarist-bartolo

Image above:  The Minister of Education Evarist Bartolo – Image source: Independent

 

His words probably didn’t go down well with the many who still refuse to recognise that everybody deserves the right to be served in the language they choose, let alone cherish it. As to even celebrate it… Well, if I were in the minister’s shoes, I wouldn’t be holding my breath.

As I see it, the aħna Maltin u bil-Malti biss nitkellmu mantra is nothing but a smokescreen created by promoters of an isolationist mentality to ridicule English-speaking people by labelling them tal-pepe. It’s their resentful way of hiding their own deficiency in the language to which they have a strong aversion.

They cannot be bothered with the correct pronunciation of English words, nor with the correct use for that matter, which is why the resulting misinterpretation is often comical. A few howlers come to mind but the following really takes the biscuit. This is the definition of a Third Party Fire & Theft car insurance cover according to a person as she described it to me – third party, tyre and left…eh, u ħruq.

Priceless!