Maltese Language Usage

In 1996, the number of persons speaking Maltese at home has been assessed as being 44,674 (See Appendix). This is considerably less than the absolute number of persons in first generation (50,879), and implies that at most 88% of the Malta-born speak Maltese at home. Again to be noted that this figure does not distinguish 1st from 2nd generation, but one must assume that few Maltese of the 2nd generation would admit to speaking Maltese at home.

This does not imply, however, that they have lost the facility of speaking Maltese completely. Many children of Maltese migrants would be capable of understanding Maltese but not of speaking,, reading or writing it. These persons would automatically be excluded by the census question relating to what language is spoken at home. (Note that the wording of the census question in 1996 was "Does the person speak a language other than English at home?" This would exclude a number of persons who would not admit to speaking it even though, , would understand it to a varying extent, which is the case with a large proportion of persons of the second generation

Not only does Victoria have the highest number of Maltese-born persons, it also has the highest concentration: 52.1% of all Maltese in Australia reside in Victoria. Indeed , Maltese has a higher concentration in any one city than most other ethnic groups. (This pattern was also evident in the 1991 census where Maltese were second only to Turkish in terms of concentration in any one city. (1991 Census - see Kipp et al 1995).

In comparison with the 1991 census, there is a considerable drop in usage of Maltese at home. In 1991 the number of persons speaking Maltese at home was 27,804 in Victoria and 20,915 in NSW. The total in Australia was 52,992, a drop of 8,318 or 15.7% (see Appendix).

Source: Maurice N.Cauchi - The Maltese Migrant Experience, Malta 1999

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