malta pajjiz sabih hafna [malta is a wonderful country]

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I’ve been in Malta a few days now, and so far so good.  The weather has been a bit chilly, but nice – in the high 50s F [14-15 C for my international readers].  Malta has a decidedly North African flavor to it [flavour for my international readers] with a dash of Sicily thrown in, and a Marks & Spencer here and there to show for the 162 years of British rule.  I’m in St. Julians, a small enclave just around a windy coastline from Valetta, the capital city and [apparently] the smallest capital city in Europe [yes, Malta joined the EU in 2004].  I was marveling at a predominantly English-speaking country that uses the Euro, until my Aussie-Belgian-Beer Aficionado-Scientist friend Adrian reminded me of Ireland.  I really hate being corrected, especially from a citizen of the British Commonwealth.

One thing that has fascinated me is the native language of Malta, Malti.  As I listened, I swore I heard some Italian in there.  Or maybe I was just having a small stroke or had not yet been sufficiently caffeinated [by the way the espresso is pretty good here].  In its written form, it is just as interesting as it sounds – but I still could not quite place it.  I figured I’d give it a guess. 

I do enjoy languages.  Learning them is not just about communicating, but it also gives an insight into the psychology of the people [guess how many words there are for “snow” in Russian?].  As Adrian informed me that today is “International Mother Language Day,” I felt it my obligation to dig deeper.  As it turns out, Malti is a Semitic language [like Arabic and Hebrew] but is unique in that it is the only Semitic language that uses Latin script.  Accordingly, it tends to look very foreign in its written form [Wara nofs inhar it-tajjeb = good afternoon (Thanks Tonio)].  Of course, I must pat myself on the back because before we verified this via the internet machine, my guess was “it looks like Arabic written in Latin script.”  What is Malti, Alex?

Thus far, we have seen the city and have had a lot of espresso, have seen many suits of armor [armour for my international readers], have seen reliquaries that purportedly held various body parts of St. John the Baptist, and have seen a bombastic re-enactment of a military encounter between Maltese militias and French troops in the late 18th century at Fort St. Elmo.  And, no, the fort was not covered in red fake fur.  And despite the fact that we witnessed the British defeat the French in front of some proud French nationalists, I was less than tickled by the spectacle.

So, what have I learned after a few days?  Ghandi bzonn nipprattika l-Malti [I need to practice my Maltese]. 

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jt
jt is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Italy and has a Masters in International Relations. He has traveled to all seven continents and one hundred countries and is quite fond of a good cappuccino.

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