Essentially, the Maltese language is a phonetic language, having a mostly phonemic orthography, with letters corresponding to their sounds. This means that when spelling a word, it’s written in much the same way it’s pronounced, or as us Maltese like to say, kif inħossuha.
Once you’ve got to grips with the pronunciation of the Maltese alphabet, you’ve practically mastered the spelling of virtually all the words in the Maltese vernacular. Of course, as with every language, this rule is qualified by only a few exceptions: for instance, the għ and the silent h, and the b/p or the s/ż sounds, are sometimes indistinguishable.
But for the most part of the language, Maltese doesn’t have the same pronunciation conundrums as English, which is possibly why so many Maltese tend to annihilate English words when speaking. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some words Maltese are commonly known for butchering:
/ċoklejt/ (chocolate) – Such a delicious treat doesn’t deserve this awful pronunciation.
/inxjurjans/ (insurance) – This one’s nails-on-a-chalk-board cringe-worthy.
/panador/ or /panadoss/ (Panadol) – This one just gives me a headache.
/petlol/ or /petlor/ (petrol) – Honestly, how hard could the word be? It’s not even a long enough word to be a tongue-twister!
/pojim/ (poem) – Perhaps those who mispronounce this word should divert their focus on proper pronunciation rather than literature.
/prajs/ (prize) – Then you have this gem. Ah, the seemingly identical twin of the noun that refers to the cost of something (price, with an emphasis on the ajs). Suffice to say, people who pronounce the word this way surely weren’t awarded a prajs in English back in their schooldays.
/orrajt/ (all right) – Sadly, I’m a culprit of saying this myself, even if it’s in a tongue-in-cheek tone.
/sangwiċ/ (sandwich) – I prefer eating something I understand.
/sirjis/ (series) – Not to be mistaken for the adjective ‘serious’. “Bdejt nara serjis tajjeb Mar, jismu Sjuwts.” Nuff said.
/selmin/ (salmon) – Clearly some people don’t understand the concept of silent letters. Or rather, some English teachers aren’t investing time in teaching students the proper pronunciation, probably because they were never taught it themselves.
/serprajs/ (surprise) – This one genuinely makes me chuckle – heartily, might I add. I mean let’s face it, it’s as hilarious as it is atrocious.
/tenks/ (thanks) – Forget trying to master the dreaded ‘th’ sound, the emphasis on the ‘e’ when it’s so clearly supposed to be an ‘a’ is what really irks me.
/tortojs/ (tortoise) – Either I need to watch more National Geographic documentaries to familiarise myself with this reptile, or I need to mask my disbelief, when I realise what they’re referring to.
/wertid/ (worth it) – This one’s so wrong on so many levels. It quite literally hurts my ears. And if that wasn’t enough, my cringe reflex switches on every time I see someone write the phrase as ‘worthed’. UGH!
Whenever I hear these words uttered incorrectly, the pedant inside me tends to rear its head. Granted, when it comes to grammar and pronunciation, I can be a bit of a stickler, but we need to come to terms with certain mispronunciations us Maltese are guilty of, as we’re in dire need of cutting them out.
Can’t get enough? Here’s part two.
I’m sure I haven’t given an exhaustive list of words, so if you know of any others, let us know in the comment section below! Go on, serprajs us!