Picture featuring Sliema in Malta - where the Maltese in general speak a combination of Maltese & English

What Language Is Spoken In Malta?

  • Apr 14, 2018

Have you ever wondered what language is spoken in Malta? People in Malta speak mainly two languages - Maltese & English.

It is true that there are many UK ex-pats in Malta, as it was formerly under British rule. And Malta is a European Union country open to tourists from around the world, so it’s no surprise that English is spoken widely. 88% of the Malta population are English speaking, and due to Malta’s close proximity to Italy, around 66% of the population speak Italian as well. However, the native Maltese language is most popular and is the national language of Malta. Maltese is spoken by around 97% of the population.

Maltese Language Origin

The Maltese language is a Semitic language heavily influenced by its neighbouring countries, with most of the vocabulary coming from the Italian and Sicilian languages. There is also French vocabulary, and Latin influence from the time when the Knights of the Order of St John ruled. Furthermore, there was an Arabic influence from the ninth century until the thirteenth century. This mixing pot of culture shows in some of the popular Maltese phrases. For example, “Good morning” in Maltese is “Bonġu” pronounced ‘Bon Jew’, similar to the French “Bonjour” and the Italian “Bonjourno”. You could also go back to Maltese and English basics with a simple “Ħello” pronounced ‘Hello’.

How To Learn Maltese

Well of course, one of the best ways to learn to speak Maltese is to spend time in Malta! You’ll have the best of both worlds with many of the locals speaking Maltese and English, they’ll be able to help you if you get stuck and will appreciate the effort.

To learn the Maltese language basics just search for a foreign languages website. There are some great free resources to help you learn.

Maltese Dialect

Like any country Malta has a variety of local dialects and these will depend on the type of people living in an area. For example, in Sliema people predominantly speak English, or a combination of English/Maltese, sounds more like it. Other areas are more likely to let the odd Italian phrase slip – you can say ‘Grazzi’ instead of thank you if you want to sound like a local. But there are also strong dialects of the Maltese language itself, where people in different villages pronounce the same word differently, adding accents and sometimes even using different unique words to refer to the same things!

What you’ll discover when you’re learning Maltese is that a lot of words are very similar in pronunciation to the English word such as friġġ (fridge), but the way the word is written is truly Maltese with Latin characters, which can make it difficult to grasp.

Here are some more basic Maltese phrases, try them out on your next visit!

  • Do you speak English? – Titkellem bl-Ingliż?
  • Good evening – Bonswa
  • I’m lost – Intlift
  • How are you? – Kif int?

If you want to say something in Maltese, you can give it a go by using a tool like Google Translate to type it in English and translate it into Maltese for you. Pronounce it if you can, or just show your screen if you get really stuck!