Languages in Malta

Maltese and English are the official languages of Malta as stipulated in the Constitution. As an EU member state, Maltese is also one of the 24 official languages of the European Union. Its influence goes beyond the archipelago and High-Level Meetings in Brussels as migrants have set up communities in Australia, the UK, the US and Canada, amongst others. Over the years, Maltese has become the dominant language for everyday use while English is the preferred language for work and administrative purposes.  

Brief history

Influence from various powers over the centuries has contributed to the formation of Maltese, ultimately resulting in the only Semitic language written with a modern Latin script and diversified by English and Italian (Anglo-Saxon and Romance respectively). As a result, academics have a hard time tracing words back to their origins. 

Due to its acoustic similarities, it is widely accepted that Maltese originated from Arabic (the Semitic language family). However, a number of scholars theorise that the Maltese language started coming into its own as early as the Phoenician period (c. 750 B.C.). Others boldly claimed that Maltese, at the time, was actually a modern version of the Phoenician language.

The arrival of the Normans in c. 1090 meant that Maltese could accommodate Sicilian and Italian, or what we refer to today as the Romance language family. This evolution made Maltese flexible and adaptable, transforming it into an effective means of communication for the Maltese people.

Further proof of this is the harmonisation of Maltese and English, an ongoing process commenced under the British rule. Along the years, the insularity of the Maltese Islands resulted in various dialects, unmistakably distinguishable to the ear. By accommodating new influences, Maltese will always flourish.