The chair of Malta’s National Council of the Maltese Language did not know of plans to create a new entity responsible for the council’s administration but has welcomed the development as a “pleasant surprise”.
“I did not know about the new centre. I did not know about the new legal notice. But if you ask me if I agree with them, yes, I fully agree with both,” Olvin Vella told Times of Malta.
Vella was reacting to a decision by the Culture Ministry to create the ‘Centre of the Maltese Language’, with former TVM head of news Norma Saliba as its head.
The centre was announced on Friday without any prior notice. It will serve as the “administrative, organisational and operational organ” of the council that Vella heads.
Vella, a linguist and Maltese lecturer at the University of Malta, said he had gotten wind, informally, that Saliba would be assisting with the council’s administration some weeks ago. But he did not know that she would be doing it as head of a new State entity.
“I do not know who Saliba is, I cannot judge her as I never watched TVM news and do not know much about her work, but I am pleased to meet a pleasant surprise,” he said. “Judging by her experience, I am sure she has the capacity for such a role. Let us work together for our Maltese language.”
The centre was introduced into law through a legal notice published on Friday. Saliba, who resigned from her TVM role just weeks ago following reports of internal strife, will lead it as its executive director.
The centre has been tasked with helping the National Council promote Maltese, with Culture Minister Owen Bonnici saying that it will place special emphasis on digital initiatives promoting the language.
Vella said that he expects the Saliba-led centre to assume a more administrative role, with major decisions taken by the National Council.
The National Council of the Maltese Language was established back in 2005 with the enactment of the Maltese Language Act (Chap. 470) and focuses on promoting the standard Maltese language and promotion of it in education and other sectors.
It is made up of 15 members and includes academics, school representatives, publishers, and translators, among others.
Vella noted that the act that established the Council envisaged the creation of a national centre for Maltese.
The council is currently in talks with the ministry to secure funding for two key projects – the development of an online Maltese dictionary and a Maltese Corpus. A corpus is an electronic collection of text and words used in different contexts, be it educational, legal, economical, and so on.
An expression of interest for the Maltese dictionary has been published, while discussions on the Maltese Corpus are ongoing. He said the development of a Maltese dictionary will be accessible online for free once up and running.
“We want our projects to promote Maltese. Our work is about promoting and preserving our national language,” he said.