It’s no secret; most students from English-speaking families struggle with Maltese at school. By the end of their schooling, they’re expected to sit for an exam where they’re assessed on their command of Maltese as a first language as well as a significant amount of literature.
Here are some tips to make Maltese less daunting.
1. Avoid creating a negative stigma around the language
Words like “ħamalli” instantly give off the underlying message that Maltese is the language of a lesser class. Unfortunately, this is a cultural perception which today’s children are picking up from a very young age. Our national pride should be reflected in the use of our unique language!
2. Be excited about your kids learning Maltese
Don’t make it obvious if they see it as a bla sens extra-curricular demand. Avoid saying “xi dwejjaq, we have Maltese homework to tackle” whilst speaking to a friend on the phone in front of your children. And even if you don’t overtly say it, your tone and body language might be speaking volumes.
3. Focus on flow over accuracy
When your child attempts to speak in Maltese but fudges the grammar, don’t focus on mistakes and just let the conversation flow. Correction at that point will only kill the conversation and make your child less likely to try again.
4. Let your children know the benefits of knowing the Maltese language whilst travelling.
It’s the “secret code” that allows you to say things you wouldn’t be able to say in front of strangers. Kids tend to find this highly motivating, especially frequent travelers and jet setters.
“Ara dik, x’inhi libsa… maaaaa!”
5. As a family, choose a time of the day when you speak solely in Maltese
Dinner time, bath time, whilst in the car… whatever works best for you. Your kids might be resistant at first and answer in English or opt to remain silent. This doesn’t mean you should give up! It is only at the very last stage of acquisition, that your child will be confident enough to reply back in Maltese.
6. Adopt a new furry Maltese friend who only understands the Maltese language
Your child will be making an extra effort to communicate with the new pup or kitty in Maltese. If pets are not an option, try adopting a group of Maltese speaking soft toys.
“Ejja Teddy, ħa nagħmlu piknik u nieħdu tazza te’ flimkien!”
Similarly, use story time to explore all the Maltese children’s book available from Merlin Publishers. Build up a selection of these lovely, colourful and stimulating books for your home library.
7. Find an extracurricular activity your children enjoy and send them to a place where the sessions are held in Maltese
If your kid is into football, forget Luxol or Melita to be with the “in crowd” – send him to your village football club instead. The language will be associated with fun and not just textbooks, and before you know it, they’ll be coming home with some lovely, colourful Maltese expressions.
8. Create a playlist of Maltese songs
Include the nation’s favourite Xemx, and trendier tunes like the Travellers’ Ħafi Paċi Kuluri, Xemx u Xita and Tpenġijiet. Listen to these in the car and enjoy a sing-along!
9. Write a simple shopping list in Maltese and send your child off to the greengrocer
They’ll be learning in context, and you’ll be reducing your load of chores as a parent. It’s genius!
10. Let your teenager bingewatch homegrown TV series like Il-Klikka.
Let’s face it; all teen girls adore Ben Camille, so might as well put that fan love to good use.
BONUS: Be a role model by brushing up on your own Maltese… Fhimt?
Because the most important thing to do with your kids is to lead by example!
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