Maltese academics concerned about the amendments to the Maltese Language Act
“We are following very closely the Government's proposals to amend the Maltese Language Act. Although the proposals being put forward are few in number, they will have the effect of weakening the Maltese Language Council by drastically reducing the academic input.” This was said in a statement by a number of Maltese academics who are concerned about the changes in the Maltese Language act. The fact that representation on the Council has been strengthened with the addition of four new members is a positive step; however, three major shortcomings are evident in the government’s proposals.
Up to now, the Council has had eleven members, seven of whom were qualified in Maltese and four were not necessarily specifically qualified in Maltese. Following the government’s proposals, the new Council should have thirteen members, six of whom will be qualified in Maltese while seven will not necessarily be qualified.
The Council has a number of technical committees, eg, a Committee for ITC and a Committee for Terminology. Up to now, the head of a committee was appointed from a list of persons recommended by the Akkademja tal-Malti and the Department of Maltese (University), both of which are undoubtedly well-established academic institutions whose involvement serves to guarantee a sense of quality and professionalism in the choice of committee heads. However, the new proposals suggest, instead, that the heads of the technical committees should be proposed by five (out of thirteen) members of the Council, and not the Akkademja and the Department of Maltese. Significantly, according the new proposals, the Council will have seven members who might not have any specific qualifications or, indeed, any knowledge, of the Maltese language. This means that five members who might not be qualified in Maltese will be able to nominate the head of a technical committee.
Currently, the Maltese Language Act stipulates that technical language questions are to be dealt with by a Commission of experts (made up of the chairman, executive director of the Council and the heads of the technical committees). The Council can reject the Commission’s proposals but it cannot amend them. However, according to the amendments being suggested by the Government, the Council, which will consist of a majority of members that will not necessarily be qualified in Maltese, will have the last word in matters on which the Council might be in disagreement with the Commission. This means that, if the law passes as proposed by the government, important decisions will be taken by a Council with a majority of members who might not be adequately qualified.
As associations and entities of Maltese (listed below), we declare that:
1. We do not agree with those amendments which could weaken the academic element within the Maltese Language Council;
2. We do not agree that the amendments should do away with the role of the Akkademja and the Department of Maltese in appointing the heads of the Technical Committees; these appointments have always been based on the academic qualifications of the persons involved;
3. We do not agree that the majority of Council members could be persons who are not fully qualified in Maltese, our national language.