Maltese - Learning the Language

Street GreenGrocer
Street GreenGrocer

Enjoying it from the Start

Is speaking Maltese easy? Well nothing is easy at first. Is speaking French easy? It isn't either. However I believe that in life we tend to do good in what we like doing. So if you like the 'sound' of the spoken Maltese language you will soon start to get familiar with the pronounciation in your head. In fact I need to add some video/audio here to introduce you to the pronounciation.

The Maltese language is derived from the Phoenician and Carthaginian people who inhabited our Islands before the Roman Conquest, many years BC. Our islands being in the centre of the Mediterranean sea had a great strategic position in olden days and were fought over, conquered, bought and sold and inhabited by the great powers of the old world, among them the Romans, the Arabs, the Spaniards, the Knights of St. John, the French and finally the British. Our language apart from being based on the Phonenician alphabet is enriched by words adapted from the tongues of these peoples who ruled the Islands from time to time. One quick example is 'bongu' and 'bonswa' which mean good morning and good evening. These expressions are both distorted abbreviations of the French 'bonjour' and 'bonsoir'. Apart from Maltese which is the official language, most of the population also speak English which is the second language. One has to remember that the British occupied our Islands (through a request by the Maltese themselves) from 1800 up to 1979. The Maltese also speak Italian but this is through the effect of Italian television which we have been receiving for more than 50 years now.

Now the Maltese Alphabet resembles that of the other European languages with some additions and omissions and with a different pronounciation.

The letters are: a b ċ d e f ġ g h ħ i ie j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x z' z

We have 30 letters in our alphabet and the 'y' is missing. Other peculiarities: we have 2 'g', a 'gh', 2 'h' , an ie and 2 'z'. Not to worry, but just note that the ċ, the ġ and the z' are dotted, The 'ħ' is crossed as it is in the ''. Let's start with the English pronounciation of each letter.

a .pronounced ah (as in English 'a' in apple)

b .....................beh

ċ .....................ch eh (like in ch annel)

d .....................deh

e ......................eh

f .......................eh f feh

ġ.......................jeh (like in g eneral)

g.......................geh (like in g arden)

għ ....................aye-n. Changes its sound according to the vowel preceding or following it. .........................See end of list for pronounciation.

h .......................ak kah. This is an 'h' mute and takes the sound of the vowel following it. ..........................See note below.

ħ........................heh

i ........................e (like in i nstant)

ie ......................e (like in i nstant - but prolonged)

j ........................ yea

k ........................keh (like in k haki)

l .........................eh l leh

m .......................eh m meh

n ........................eh n neh

o ........................oh (like in ohms)

p ....................... peh

q ........................ guttural sound like the 'k' in Cokney, pronounced Coqney

r ......................... eh r reh

s ......................... seh or eh s seh

t ........................... teh

u .......................... oo (like in woo)

w .......................... weh

x ............................sh eh (like in shady)

z' .........(dotted) ......zeh (like in zebra)

z .............................ts eh (like in tse tse fly)

Pronounciation of gh (aye-n) with different vowels preceding or following it.

għ a .........................is pronounced ..........ah

għ e ...........................................................eh

għ i .............................................................a (like a in aging)

għ o ...........................................................oh (like in ohms)

għ u ............................................................oh (like in Oh dear)

When 'għ' comes at the end of a word it takes the sound of an ħ .

When h (mute), 'ak kah' comes at the end of a word it also takes the sound of ħ.

I think that this is more than enough for a First introductory Lesson. Next lesson, we'll start with some simple words. Lesson 2 is further down the page.

Hear the Pronounciation here

Lesson 2

When you learn the sound that each letter makes it will become quite easy to spell words in Maltese. First of all let's see which letters have the same sound as in English to make it easier still. We have quite a few consonants which are the same. We have b, d, f, ħ, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, z'. Then we have the 2 'g' s. One is dotted ġ and is pronounced like the 'g' in - general. The other 'g' is pronounced like the 'g' in - great, guard and guarantee.

The vowels are all different from English so it would be a good idea to copy the pronounciation transcription from the first lesson and keep it beside you as you try to read the following words.

First Words:

First Sentence: I am going for a fortnight's holiday (15-day holiday).

Maltese.......... Meaning..............English Transcription..... Remarks

J ie n a ...........I, myself ..............ye-nah............................ ye is prolonged

s e j j e r.... .....am going..............say-yer

v a g a n z a.... holiday................ vack-aunts-ah.................z not dotted - ts

t a' ...................of, belonging to... t-ah

ħ m i s t a x...... 15 days............... h-miss-stash.................. ħ - like Home


Second Sentence : You can take the dog with you.

In ti...................You.......................In-tee ............................In - - as inside

t is ta................can.......................t-is-tah........................... is

t ie ħu...............take......................t-ee-who

il-kelb...............the dog.................ill-k-eh-lb.........................'il-' is the article

m ie għ ek........with you................m-ee-eh-k

Please note the definite article il- in 'il-kelb'. Like 'the' in English 'il-' is used both for masculine and feminine nouns. Example: il-mejda (ill-maid-ah), fem. noun - the table. Il-ġeru (ill-jerr-oo) masc. noun - the puppy.

Listen to the pronounciation of all the words on the Video.


The Pronouns

In the previous Lesson we used the Pronouns J ie n a  (I) and In ti (you). The other pronouns are:

Hu....................He........................oo................H mute, ak kah sound of u only

Hi.....................She...................... e.................H mute, ak kah sound of i only

Aħ na................We.......................aħ-nah........Ħ sounded

In tom...............You.......................in-Tom

Hu ma...............They.....................oo-mah.........H mute, ak kah sound of u.

Let us use the pronouns to conjugate a simple verb.  The first thing to learn about verbs in Maltese is that the infinitive is always based on the third person masculine singular (He) in the Past Tense.  Example: He went.  This is unlike the English where the infinitve is : to go.

Conjugation of the Verb Mar (M ah r) meaning He Went (to go)

Present Tense

Jiena...... im mur

Inti.......... tmur

Hu...........imur

Hi............ tmur

Ahna....... immorru

Intom....... tmorru

Huma....... imorru

(to be continued)

Another Verb and Another Video

Present Tense of the Verb 'Rikeb' - (Ree-keb) He rode - In English 'to ride'

Jiena ...... nirkeb

Inti...........tirkeb

Hu...........jirkeb

Hi .......... tirkeb

Aħna.......nirkbu

Intom......tirkbu

Huma .....jirkbu


Let's hear some reading in Maltese. This should be interesting I think. The paragraph below is taken from a short story which I have written based on the Siege of Gozo of 1551. I have translated it in Maltese and you can hear it on the video below.

The best way is to start the Video and listen while following the paragraph Titled :Maltese Text further down.

"As they neared the narrow stretch of water between the 2 Cominos, known today as the Blue Lagoon, they observed a concentration of Turkish galleys coming from Malta towards Gozo. Some were single-masted but the majority were the larger double-masted type. Their lateen sails were unfurled although there was no wind and their 15 pairs of oars were swiftly cutting the now darkening water of the Gozo channel. Some disappeared round Qala point, while others took a South West direction past Mgarr ix-xini and disappeared round the cliffs of Ta Cenc. Five of the galleys dropped anchor and blocked Mgarr Harbour.

About an hour later they heard 6 cannon shots from the far side of the Island of Gozo. "This seems like a signal of some sort," Toni whispered to his bride. "Look the galleys are moving in".

Indeed the 5 galleys weighed anchor, unshipped their oars and began rowing fast, four of them towards the port of Mgarr and one towards Ix-xatt l-Ahmar and Mgarr ix-Xini.

"The infidel dogs are attacking the Island. Damn the Turks, may God drown them", Toni said gnashing his teeth. "What can we do! They are attacking in full force and from all sides simultaneously. That's why the other ships kept going past. The small Dejma garrison and the few Knights at the Cittadella can do nothing against such an army and will soon have to surrender. They will all be killed or dragged into slavery"."

Maltese text:

Meta qorbu lejn dik il-biċċa baħar dejqa ta' bejn il-Kmiemen, magħrufa llum bħala l-Blue Lagoon, osservaw qatgħa xwieni Torok ġejjin minn Malta lejn Għawdex. Biċċiet minnhom kienu ta' arblu wieħed iżda l-biċċa 'l kbira kienu mill-kbar ta' żewġ arbli. Il-qlugħ latin tagħhom kien miftuħ għalkemm ma kienx hemm riħ u l-ħmistax 'l par imqagħdef ta' kull wieħed kienu jaqtgħu bil-ħeffa l-ilma tal-fliegu li issa kien beda jiswied ġmielu. Ftit minnhom kisru ma' Ras-il-Qala, filwaqt li xi oħrajn ġibdu għal ġol-Lbiċ, ħallew l-Mġarr ix-Xini u kisru mas-sies ta' Ta' Ċenċ. Ħamsa mix-xwieni tefgħu l-ankra u bblokkaw il-Port ta' l-Mġarr.

Xi siegħa wara semgħu sitt tiri tal-kanun minn naħa l-oħra tal-gżira t'Għawdex. "Dan donnu xi sinjal", Toni qal lil-għarusa tiegħu. "Arahom, ix-xwieni qed jersqu lejn l-art".

Fil-fatt il-ħamest mriekeb tellgħu l-ankra, niżżlu l-imqagħdef ġo l-ilma u bdew jaqdfu bl-ikbar ħeffa, erbgħa minnhom lejn il-Port ta' l-Mġarr u l-ieħor lejn ix-Xatt l-Aħmar u Mġarr ix-Xini.

"Il-klieb misilmin qegħdin jattakkaw il-gżira. Saħta fuq it-Torok, Alla ma jagħraqhomx!", Toni lissen jagħżaż snienu. "X'nistgħu nagħmlu, qegħdin jattakkaw f'daqqa b'forza kbira minn kull naħa. Għalhekk ix-xwieni l-oħra baqgħu għaddejjin. Il-ġgajta żgħira tad-Dejma u l-ftit Kavallieri ġoċ-Ċittadella m'huma se jagħmlu xejn kontra armata bħal din u dalwaqt se jkollhom iċiedu. Kollha se jinqatlu jew jinġarru lsiera."


If the story is to your liking, please "Like" my Page too. Thanks.




Hear the Above Selection Read in Maltese

More by this Author


Comments 15 comments

"Quill" 6 years ago

Great Hub and very informative...one which I will set aside and study further...so many languages and they are all interesting...

Blessings


NewHorizons profile image

NewHorizons 6 years ago from Gozo, Malta, EU. Author

thanks Quill. But I'd like to add audio cause it wd be much more helpful and interesting to HEAR the pronounciation. Is it possible to add audio to a HUB?


languagemalta 6 years ago

very interesting hub. I like the way you write. Expecting some more hubs on Maltese Language from you, may be revealing a newer side of the Language. Thanks once again


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

What a great start for those wanting to learn the language.


wearing well profile image

wearing well 6 years ago from Lancashire U.K.

Gozo sounds and looks like a nice place to live and holiday.

You can make your own video and use Utube.You just need to copy and embed the code within the Utube portal frame then paste it into the add video window on your hubpage.Sorry I don't know if you can just add audio.


NewHorizons profile image

NewHorizons 6 years ago from Gozo, Malta, EU. Author

Thanks for your help and encouraging words.


Lady_E profile image

Lady_E 6 years ago from London, UK

Malta has always seemed like a nice, quiet place to me. I've heard nothing but good things about it. Thanks for this interesting Hub - I notice you have 3 g's in your alphabet. Its also nice that you provided the pronunciation too. Regards.


NewHorizons profile image

NewHorizons 6 years ago from Gozo, Malta, EU. Author

Thanks WearingWell for your tip on making a Video.

Yes Lady-E. Malta is nice and Gozo is much quieter and more peaceful. The pronounciation is very important. I intend to set every lesson with text accompanied by video.


lisa brazeau profile image

lisa brazeau 6 years ago from Canada

The language has a wonderful 'flow' to it. I enjoy these kinds of hubs, as I find the history of language fascinating.

Great job!


Wendytoesocks1 6 years ago

Hi I am learning malti & realised I I didn't have the alphabet pronounced in audio . This is excatly what I need . Grazzi hafna :-)


NewHorizons profile image

NewHorizons 6 years ago from Gozo, Malta, EU. Author

Wendytoesocks1. Glad to be of some help. Malti is not easy to learn, well like all the other languages, I suppose. If you have any difficulty just leave another comment. Sahha (meaning bye, you know that of course)


melissa 4 years ago

this website is very useful to me because my moms whole family is from Malta and she is tring to teach me maltese because I want to learn and i want to surprise her so thank u this site is very useful!!!!!!


NewHorizons profile image

NewHorizons 4 years ago from Gozo, Malta, EU. Author

Melissa, thank you for your kind comment. Learning another language is always useful especially if it is your mum's native tongue.

This is a joke: Mel issa in Maltese means "so now" as in - - So now we'll go for a walk, lol


Ron 4 years ago

I speak English, French, and Arabic fluently and some italian so I am finding Maltese to be very easy. I love it


NewHorizons profile image

NewHorizons 4 years ago from Gozo, Malta, EU. Author

Hey Ron, Je suis heureux que vous trouvez le Maltais interessant et que vous avez envie de l'apprendre. Moi, j'aime le Francais aussi. I can read French books and understand quite well but when it comes to speaking, it is difficult for me cause I have never practised. It is especially difficult to understand when a frenchman/woman talks to me in French. If I were to speak in French to a Maltese who knows French as well, I think I will manage. French nationals talk so fast....... I tried to converse with our guide and driver when I was in Paris last August, but nothing doing......

Good for you to interest yourself in learning Maltese. If you interest yourself enough, nothing is impossible.....Have you seen my Page of Maltese Proverbs and their English meaning?

: http://www-rent-a-house-gozo.com/maltese_proverbs

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