Not everyone is in Malta for the same length of time, but whether you’re visiting our little island for a week or three months, it is definitely recommended that you learn at least a smidgen of Maltese to make your holiday more pleasurable.
There are plenty of reasons why taking this route is a good idea. For starters, even though Malta is a bilingual nation and most people here will be able to communicate in English just fine, locals will appreciate your efforts in speaking the mother tongue! We really do think it’s charming when tourists have a go at speaking Maltese, so you might be rewarded with some extra hospitality.
Plus, there’s always the fact that learning a new language is simply a rewarding, enriching experience for its own sake – and if you plan on learning more languages, Maltese is a great option. Sure, we might not have the most widely-spoken language in the world, but it sure makes for a good challenge. Our unique blend of Italian, Arabic, and other influences is not the easiest to get to grips with, mark our words, but that’s what makes it fun!
Of course, if you do use your Maltese skills to practical use, you need to make it very clear that you’re still an apprentice of the tongue. Most people will pick up on this easily, but if your accent is convincing enough, you might that some people will try to carry a whole conversation in Maltese with you!
Still, at least starting the conversation in Maltese is sure to turn some heads, guaranteeing that it will be pretty easy to get the help and/or information you need as you explore the island. So without further ado, here are a few essential phrases that you can use to impress the Maltese, and even your friends back home!
Bonġu/Bonswa (Good morning/Good evening)
[Pronounced: bon-joo/bon-sua] When trying to get someone’s attention, nothing works quite as well as a heartfelt greeting. Even if you switch to English right after, a good Bonġu from a non-Maltese native will definitely put a smile on anyone’s face. In other words, you might actually make his morning good!
Kif int? (How are you?)
[Pronounced: keef-int?] The same principle as above stands here. Whether you’re looking for guidance, or whether you’re simply trying to have a chat, showing interest in the other person’s well-being goes a long way. Human compassion is a language that transcends words, but hey – it works pretty well in Maltese too.
X’jismek?/ Jiena jisimni… (What is your name? /My name is….)
[Pronounced: shyis-mac?/yeena yisimni] You can’t make friends with people if you don’t know their names, right? Going abroad is rewarding for so many reasons, but connecting with new people is definitely one of our favourites. Using these two simple phrases might result in you making some genuine friends you’ll come to regard as irreplaceable.
Kif nista mmur sa…? (How can I get to [insert place here]?)
[Pronounced: keef nista immoor sa..?] Malta might be a maze for you, but you can at least show those around you that your grasp on the language is slightly less labyrinthine! We bet that you wouldn’t want to receive directions in Maltese back, though!
Pro tip: If you really want to impress, learn how to use the determiner article il- works in Maltese. If you want to go to any library, you’d say ‘Kif nista mmur sa librerija?’. However, you want to go to a specific one, you’d say ‘kif nista mmur sal-librerija?’. Place names don’t require the article, so you can just say sentences like ‘kif nista mmur sa Ħaġar Qim?’
Jekk jogħġbok/Grazzi (Please/Thank you)
[Pronounced: yekk yodgbok/gratsi] We teach children that these are life’s magic words all over the word, and it’s equally true in Malta. Have you ever been to a concert or a similar production featuring a foreign artist, and hearing the performer say thank you in your own language?
We tend to love it here, so if you make using these two words a habit, you’ll be in everybody’s good books.
Tista terga tirrepeti? (Could you repeat?)
[Pronounced: tista terdga tirrepeti?] Here’s a fun one that you’ll definitely need to use at some point, especially if you’re making an extra effort to carry the conversation in Maltese. However, it might come in handy even if the other person is speaking in English with a challenging accent. Don’t worry about asking this question – we won’t bite your head off.
Inħobbok/Inħobbkom (I love you [singular] /I love you [plural])
[Pronounced: eenhobbok/eenhobbkom] Whether you’re trying to make your romantic holiday in Malta even more romantic, or whether you’re simply trying to extend some real appreciation to family and Maltese friends, nothing goes down a treat quite like love.
‘dg’ = a hard G sound, like the ‘G’ in ‘Roger’
‘ts’ = a soft Z sound, like the ‘z’ in ‘Pizza’
‘x’ in Maltese is equivalent to ‘sh’
‘h’ in Maltese is equivalent to an ‘h’ sound like in ‘happy’
‘gh’ in Maltese is silent, it only lengthens the vowels
‘j’ in Maltese is equivalent to ‘y’