6.9 Discussion

From what has been said above, it is clear that the prospect of an early demise of Maltese language within the next generation is very real.

It is easey to speculate about the reasons for this. In the first place, most AO not perceive it as useful in economic and survival terms. it as replacing other more "useful" languages, and therefore encourage their children to study it at school where it is Mk,- -%.L tertiary levels, Maltese studies have not been able to compete in other subjects.

Should this be a cause for alarm? One could argue that most of the second generation Maltese will never go back to settle in Malta, and, therefore the only use of Maltese will be to communicate with their parents here in Australia.

It must be remembered however that there are more fundamental for communicating in one's own native tongue:

  • Individuals who successfully attain high levels of skills in two languages derive superior cognitive benefits which make them better at hypothesising solutions to scientific problems than their monolingual age peers (Lo Bianco, 1989, p 16)
  • Both convergent and divergent thinking is improved: the former helps the process of generalisation, the latter helps speculative process.
  • Those who achieve a high proficiency in another language have cultural insight and open networks not otherwise available.
  • A second language helps in broadening the cultural "repertoire" of students.
  • Employment possibilities may be improved.
  • Ability to learn other languages may be improved in those who are already familiar with learning other languages.

The most worrying aspect of loss of communication in Maltese is the impact it might have on the intellectual, social and emotional development of Maltese children. With the limited English vocabulary which most parents have, it would be difficult to envisage the transfer of a wide range of concepts and ideas to their children. It is difficult to perceive the expression of emotional values and finer points of language and meaning in a foreign tongue. As one person has put it: "it is like talking baby language all the time."

Related to this is the concept that pride in one's cultural background and achievement is important in sustaining ethnic youth through their tough and in many instances menacing and antagonistic journey through school years. Those with a strong religious or ethnic background of Which they are proud, are far more likely to achieve higher educational levels than those who are only too willing to hide their origin and never use their own language in public. There is no doubt that language is one of the most important props of culture, and lack of use of one's language is too often associated with diminished interest in one's own culture and heritage. It is no wonder that these aspects tend to be lost together. If this is the case, then perhaps the most important reason for maintaining language, and by inference cultural traditions, is to give a boost to our educational expectations and achievements.

It was mentioned earlier that lack of communication with the mother country is perhaps one of the most important reasons for loss of interest in Maltese culture and language. Although efforts have been made to increase contact, very little success can be claimed, and we are therefore confronted with the situation that although Maltese form one of the largest non English-speaking community in Australia, they are also one of the most forgotten, with a low profile and rapidly losing their identity.


Language Shift: Causes and Associations (After Clyne, 1982)

In the first Generation

Edulucation level of the migrant

Numeric strength (Population ratio)

  • Linguistic and cultural similarity with dominant group
  • Status and usefulness of language
  • Income
  • Age: decreases with age
  • Presence of grandparents
  • Socio-cultural characteristics
  • Political situation in homeland
  • Ethnic denominations: Maltese & Dutch tend to lose language much more than Greeks, ltalians Yugoslav
  • Gender - no effect
  • State variation: South Australian and Victoria maintain languages better than Quensland or WA
  • Married to English Speaking partner.

In Second Generation

  • Inter-marriage with English-speaking partner
  • Age: increases with age
  • Parental encouragement
  • No effect of gender

Source: Maurice N. Cauchi - Maltese Migrants in Australia, Malta 1990

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