Malta is a cosmopolitan, metropolitan archipelago – more than one in five people born beyond its shores call it their home. English increasingly dominates Maltese as the most used language, but there are some non-natives determined to master the unique island language.
In Sempliċiment Irrid Nitkellem which translates to “I just want to speak” documentary maker Isaac Joseph Zammit meets two residents, Tomasz and Mirian, who take it upon themselves to master Maltese.
51-year-old Tomasz has made Malta his home for nearly six years and embarked on Maltese lessons less than half a year after arrival.
“I wanted to learn Maltese very quickly once I got here. The Maltese language is Malta. The language of people, of the nation – if I want to belong here, I have to speak the local language,” Tumas from Poland said.
“It wasn’t even to adapt, I wanted to become Maltese, even if I knew it was not truly possible. This is not a temporary place for me, Malta is my home.”
His colleagues at the time told him about Lifelong Courses, Maltese lessons for foreigners, held in Msida after work hours.
The course started with 35 attendants, which dwindled to seven by the end of it.
Mirian, from the UK, landed in Malta for the first time with her husband in 2011.
It was the time when Bizassa Street in Sliema, a destination for shopping, became pedestrianized. It was then that her fascination for the language began.
“The Prime Minister at the time, Gonzi, gave an inaugural speech in Maltese. It was the first I ever heard Maltese. It was a lot of strange sounds for me. I was fascinated. I decided I need to learn the language”.
Miriam found a library book called “Teach Yourself Maltese” by Joseph Aquilina and read it. Then, she signed up for a part-time course at MCAST and took private lessons with a secondary school teacher.
Today, Miriam has an MQF1,2,3 and O-Level in Maltese under her belt.
However, the journey for both Maltese residents hasn’t been smooth sailing.
Both have gone through the trials and tribulations of the education system, and both agree that there’s too much focus on grammar than on speaking.
“So many people dropped out because they’re learning things that are useless to them. The curriculum was heavily focused on grammar, which doesn’t make sense,” Tumas said.
“They know how to conjugate, they the rules, but they can’t understand.”
He said that in his experience, it boiled down to the teacher you got and not the curriculum.
According to Miriam, the problem also lies with the syllabus, which needs a “serious revamp”.
“After 2 years there are no more courses for foreigners. I don’t feel like I need any more qualifications, I’m not aiming to be a Maltese professor at the University,” she said.
“I just want to speak.”
Watch the full documentary here.
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