A Swedish woman who learnt fluent Maltese in just 16 months is looking into how bilingual islanders use the two official languages in different contexts and how this links to their memory, attention and decision-making.

Jessica Schulz, a Swedish national, moved to Malta with her family in 2008, aged just 14. Throughout the four years she spent here, she did not pick up the language and only managed to learn it properly once she moved to the UK to further her studies.

After completing a masters in bilingualism and attention in children in the UK, the University of Edinburgh student decided to focus her doctorate on the links between language, cognition and decision-making by collecting evidence from Maltese-English bilingual adults.

The research will be the first of the sort and Jessica is also planning a future study that looks at the way language relates to attention.  She is looking for research participants aged over 18 who live in Malta and who speak both Maltese and English.

Jessica Schulz was fluent in Maltese in just 16 months of learning

Jessica, who speaks six languages – Swedish, German, Spanish, French, Maltese and English – is intrigued by the spoken Maltese language and although the pronunciation could be quite challenging, especially for those opting to learn it in their adulthood, she refers to it as a “beautiful language”.

Jessica is intrigued by the spoken Maltese language

She herself started learning the language in her free time in September 2020 by listening to the radio and TV while carrying out house chores and also by signing up for online lessons. She feels that knowledge of the Maltese language brings her closer to the place she calls home.

Jessica’s research is a cooperation between the University of Edinburgh and the University of Malta, and her supervisors are Dr Thomas Bak and Dr Sarah Grech.

If you would like to take part in her research, you can reach out on s1937179@ed.ac.uk. Research will be conducted online for now.

Do you want to learn Maltese?

If you are not a native speaker and would like to learn the language, you have until the end of January to sign up for an online course – whether at survival, basic or pre-intermediate level – being offered by the University of Malta.

Head of the Department of Maltese Michael Spagnol told Times of Malta that two cycles of courses are offered each scholastic year. Interest in the course, which kicked off in 2005 has been on the increase, with 2,500 completing it successfully.

More recently, the department has seen an increase in foreign workers, including doctors and medical professionals, who enrol for the course to be able to converse and engage with their patients better.

For more information, e-mail malti.arts@um.edu.mt.

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