Malta is a very interesting country because it has two main languages. Maltese (a mix of Italian and Arabic languages) is the national language. English is widely spoken, too. It is considered a second national language.
You know immediately if you are speaking to a Maltese person because of the way they pronounce words and how they express themselves. Although they follow the British English model, they still manage to use their own words. We call this “Maltenglish”!
When I first began working in my school, I felt completely lost. Teachers would always translate or apologize for speaking in Maltese. This helped a bit for me to be able to pick up certain words. The language is so extremely different that I could not tell one word from the next.
After five months here, I can now pick up on the words that come from Italian, because I understand Spanish. I still have a hard time with the Arabic words. Tone and body language are clues that help me to understand and remember words!
Struggling with the language has certainly made me more sympathetic toward my students, who are struggling with English. I realize now, first-hand, what it must be like for an immigrant student to be placed in a general classroom. I fully understand how lost they must feel. I have students here that give me the blank look or respond with a “huh?” or “what?” because they have no idea what is going on. My heart breaks for them!
I don’t know Maltese and would never act as if I did. This keeps me on my toes with my students. I can see now when they don’t fully understand something. I make sure I take the extra time to work through it with them. I would never want to contribute to their feelings of being lost.
Being here has made me realize how important it is to know a second language. I studied Spanish in school. My parents and grandparents speak it fluently, but I always struggled. I understand it very well, but I lack the confidence to speak it. It is time to change that! I know it will take lots of practice.
Knowing a second language prepares you for better job opportunities. It connects you to the global society we live in. Take it seriously and it will pay off in the end.
There are many ways one can practice or learn a new language. You can take classes, get a tutor or listen to podcasts or computer programs. The options are there, but no matter what option you choose, you must always PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!