A lot of foreigners have a hard time fitting in initially, because try as we might, us Maltese don’t even notice when we accidentally slip back into our home language while speaking to foreigners. So to those who feel left out or confused, here’s a quick handy guide to all the words you need to know.
No, this has nothing to do with religion (even if autocorrect keeps insisting we mean Jew not jew), the ‘j’ in jew is soft, like an English ‘y’. Think of the pronunciation as ‘yo’ – but used to mean ‘or’. This word isn’t spoken out loud a lot, but any Maltese text-versation will have 500 jews thrown in for good measure.
10:05 “We’re going out, jew?”
21:30 “Int ġej jeeeeew”
We also have a bad habit of translating it directly to English; “You’re coming or?”
One of the many brands-Maltese-people-use-as-regular-nouns. Will you hoover your room? Can you pass me that biro? Do you have an elastoplast? Can you help with my cutix? It’s just a thing we do, but the most common example is everyone’s favourite white styrofoam. The worst part about it all is that we almost never notice they’re not regular nouns and not everyone knows the product.
The quintessential Maltese word. Mela covers all bases. It means ‘yes of course’ it means ‘no fucking way’ it means ‘girl have you lost your damn mind?’. The only word you’ll ever need is mela, you just need to work on your inflections, mannerisms and tone of voice to properly match the mela of your choosing.
Are you in pain? Bored? Tired of someone’s shit? Sigh long and loud and throw in an ajma (don’t forget, the j’s a y). Add another favourite Maltese word and you’ve got an ‘shit’s about to get real’; alma żobbi.
Less of a word and more of a guttural noise, eq means: well, nothing. But it’s the sound used when someone states the obvious or does something that sort of displeases you, but doesn’t quite anger you.
6. At its best
The Maltese have a bad habit of taking a phrase, falling in love with it, and then using it so many times it loses its original meaning. ‘At its best’ is one of those phrases. Just add a short statement and ‘at its best’ adds fuel to our sarcasm fire like never before.
Someone doesn’t share their chips? “Christianity at its best”
Someone parked illegally? “Road etiquette at its best”.
You know how it was once cool to call something cool ‘the bomb’? Malta has kept that phrase and it still hasn’t gone out of style. Anything that excites us or fits right into our plans is hit with an easy: “Bomba”.
There are many Maltese stages of getting drunk, but the most important one to know will always be żibel. Every conversation from Sunday till Wednesday will have at least one person talking about how żibel they were.
Another versatile, if a little blasphemous, phrase. This one can be used for when you’re scared, happy, sad or even angry. It’s also 2/3s of one of Malta’s biggest memes, Madonna Madonna No!
10. Pull out
Not in the sexual way ladies and gents, pulling out is the result of a direct translation, and usually means the person is going to withdraw money from an ATM. So don’t be too scandalised when they ask you if its ok if they pull out first.
Malta’s second mela. It can be used as a single, short sentence that still captures all the emotions you need it to. You just need to believe in its power, and work through your facial expression and ma combo.