Everyone knows that London is a big multicultural city that is a magnet of talent. There are people from all over the world in London, but one aspiring Maltese actress has utilised her mother tongue as a way to make a mark in the big city.
Donna Borg moved to London to study professional acting after being awards the Malta Arts Scholarship in 2015 and has successfully graduated from a two-year professional acting course at the prestigious Drama Studio London.
She’s since gone from height to height, working with people like David Tucker, director of ‘Eastenders’, Alan Hescott, writer of ‘Thomas & Friends’, as well as directors of several popular British comedies like ‘I’m Alan Partridge’, ‘Smack the Pony’, and ‘Horrible Histories’. She’s performed everywhere from The Theatre Royal Stratford East to The Phoenix Artist Club and has recently been cast in a production of ‘Frankenstein’ at the Abbey Theatre in February and March 2018.
But acting isn’t all she does, and Donna has another passion: the Maltese language. And she’s been teaching the beautiful Maltese language to foreigners in London throughout her time there.
“A month before moving to London I was approached by the founders of the Maltese Culture Movement in the UK who told me there were many people in London who had been interested in learning Maltese for a long time,” Donna told to Lovin Malta.
“I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Maltese and a Masters in Maltese Linguistics as well as experience teaching students of various ages and levels. I always loved teaching and I think it goes hand in hand with acting so I was very excited at the prospect of teaching my language in another country. In April 2016 I set up the first Maltese for Beginners course in London.”
She is predominantly catering for second generation Maltese children living in the UK or people wanting to learn the language of their Maltese spouse or partner, but the response so far has been incredible.
“I’ve had about 100 students so far and receive weekly emails from people wanting to learn. I feel very honoured to be doing this and I have also met some of the most enthusiastic and passionate students ever,” she says.
“Maltese works in a very different way to English so beginners normally find it very fascinating but equally challenging,” she continued. “I would say pronouncing some of the sounds can be quite difficult at first, especially in the case of words with Maltese ‘q’ like ‘daħq‘, ‘noqgħod‘, ‘ħaqqni‘, and with ‘ġ’ and ‘ħ’, Words with double consonants such as ‘kellem‘ and ‘sajjar‘, and pronouncing the ‘r’ at the end of words are also a bit of a challenge initially. Also, the English verb doesn’t change much, for example: ‘I wrote’, ‘he wrote’, ‘we wrote’ etc., but in Maltese we have ‘jien ktibt‘, ‘hu kiteb‘, ‘aħna ktibna‘ etc.”
“In English the same form of the adjective is used for feminine, masculine and plural eg: ‘a good man’, ‘a good woman’, ‘good people’, but in Maltese this changes: ‘raġel tajjeb‘, ‘mara tajba‘, ‘nies tajba/tajbin‘ so knowing if a noun is feminine, masculine or plural and which adjective form to use can be tricky at first!” she says.
The otherness of the Maltese language to the students didn’t dampen their enthusiasm however, and it didn’t put the students off from learning the language.
‘I would rather say it’s the opposite as it makes them want to understand in more details how it all works! English speakers normally love the sound of certain Maltese words such eg ‘paqpaq‘, ċafċaf and ‘żaqżaq‘ which always puts a smile on their face. They are also fascinated by how a single word can have various elements of different origin, eg. ‘ipparkja‘ and ‘editjah‘ where ‘park’ and ‘edit’ are English but the structure is uniquely Maltese,” she says.
While it can be “tough at times” learning all her acting materials, preparing for stage time, as well as dealign with “singing, accents, stage combat, different types of dance such as flamenco, tango and waltz, yoga, microphone technique, radio plays, commercials, mask and clowning, improvisation,” she says that “I enjoyed every second of it and I will always consider it one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.”