A living language is always prone to experience changes, and since the Maltese language is still alive, it is bound to keep developing as any other living language does.
One has to bear in mind that the language reflects the world outside, and as this world is dynamically changing, so does the language, and this development is inevitable. Yet this does not mean a total elimination of the native tongue out of sheer snobbery or artificiality, as frequently is the case in conversational situations in certain localities and institutions.
One may notice how different today's ltalian is from Dante's Divine Comedy Italian; this classical work is only understood if reference is made to the footnotes following these archaic texts.
The same situation applies to Shakespeare plays, whose English is far different from contemporary English. One has to keep in mind that all living languages go through such natural metamorphosis caused by the general development in various sectors due to the dynamic progress experienced by all mankind.
Maltese is no exception, and it has to adapt accordingly to the changes in order to survive. The problem remains when it comes to accepting such incoming registers, which finally, if introduced correctly and according to the already established rules by the Akkademja tal-Malti, will only enrich our language.
When the typewriter, and much later, the computer, and other technological innovations reached our islands, our language always adapted itself and provided a mechanism for these new registers and also found a way to conjugate the verbs derived from this new input.
In fact for Romance or Anglo-Saxon loan verbs, we use the stem with (Semitic) prefixes and suffixes, for example: Nit-tajp-ja/nix-xutt-ja/ni-skor-ja/nip-print-ja/nis-sejv-ja.
The encounter of Maltese with other cultures sustained and enriched our native tongue and in fact this process helped it to develop as a language on its own. A case in point is the word serrep, which is derived from the ltalian serpente, we normally use it to describe a movement or the way our village roads developed organically.
Serrep is given the second Semitic verbal form, though neither the Arabs nor the Italians have such a word. The same counts for the word fajjar, which was derived from the English word fire, which neither the English nor the Arabs have.
Hundreds of loaned words and verbs have gone through this development and today nobody argues about them as they established themselves in our daily language use. Some examples sustain this: from the Spanish word chico (small boy) we created the Semitic diminutive ckejken, from the Italian regole (rules) we created the Semitic plural rwiegel (weather forecast), from the English kettle we created the Semitic plural ktejjel.
These are only a few of the many which are still commonly used today and they all reflect our geographical position between Europe and North Africa.
Once we adapt Maltese expressions well, they definitely would sound natural. It is here where broadcasters have the duty to deliver the language fluently and correctly. Many expressions we use nowadays are those used by broadcasters, though unfortunately some expressions are wrongly or unnecessarily used. A case in point: Inqabad fil-pussess tad-droga or even worse rgiel inqabdu fil-pussess tal-fkieren. Apart from becoming a cliché, these expressions sound so unnatural and are in fact erroneous. Rgiel nqabdu fil-pussess tal-fkieren literally means that the tortoises took men in their possession. Thus the correct expression should be: inqabad bid-droga and rgiel inqabdu bil-fkieren.
Meanwhile, one may attribute other expressions to broadcasters, such as l-ghodwa t-tajba, bongu, waranofsinhar it-tajjeb, insell-milkom, il-gurnata t-tajba and various others, which today are widely used. Sadly, many Maltese insisting on greeting one other in English, even though these expressions are available in our native tongue and widely used.
As a teacher of Maltese, I greet my students every morning with Bongu or L-ghodwa t-tajba and none of them ever complained or reacted negatively; in fact they are now very well used to it.
Even when the headmaster occasionally visits our class he is greeted in Maltese and in fact he got used to replying in Maltese, even though in such instances English expressions are widely used in our schools.
Although many fear that Maltese is in danger of extinction, facts indicate otherwise. I say this because Maltese is still used by the majority of Maltese citizens as a tool of communication.
Nonetheless, many parents feed their children a mixed diet of Maltese and English, to the detriment of their knowledge of both languages. This is certainly not a bilingual orientation, but a semi-lingual practice, which is not advisable.
So let us use both languages in the right way at the right time. In so doing we have to be aware that Maltese is our national language, which gives us an identity and has a communicative role among ourselves and now also within the European Union.
It is the largest and most important surviving archive we still have. It is 1,000 years old and every word has a history, sometimes echoing the most archaic past, which no other written document yet records. Meanwhile, English helps us move futher beyond the horizon to widen our knowledge and to communicate with the entire world.
Both languages should live together, though neither of them should be detrimental to the other. Parents together with all other educators should strive to pass on this bilingual culture in the right manner. They should ideally speak to their children in their early childhood in Maltese, so that they would acquire a strong foundation in their mother tongue, which eventually would help children, around the age of three, to embrace English more easily.
Parents should agree how to deliver both languages correctly; ideally one of them would speak to their children in Maltese and the other in English, or at least they should find time when either of the languages is spoken correctly on its own.
Many are rightly preoccupied with the risk of losing our English, yet what preoccupies me more is the mediocrity in which the vernacular is being used.
I appeal to all those who present themselves as public speakers - they have the responsibility, in whatever profession they hold, to deliver any spoken language, especially Maltese, which is the soul of our identity, in a professional way, otherwise they have no place in the broadcasting sphere. We cannot afford to let mediocrity systematically erode our language.
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