Sib­lings on a mis­sion to make you say it right

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Gabriel Schem­bri

Reuben De­gior­gio and his sis­ter Au­dri­enne are pas­sion­ate about the Maltese lan­guage. Reuben, in par­tic­u­lar, grew even fonder of the Maltese lan­guage when he started study­ing to be­come a trans­la­tor, a pro­fes­sion he now prac­tises in Brus­sels.

Au­dri­enne has more of a tal­ent in the art of draw­ing and is an es­tab­lished con­cept artist based in Malta. Bound by their wish to spread knowl­edge about the Maltese lan­guage, they cre­ated Għidha bilMalti, a Face­book page which in­tends to cre­ate aware­ness on the proper use of Maltese.

One of their most re­cent posts that shed some light on the lan­guage spo­ken by the chil­dren to­day has stirred up some con­tro­versy and many shared it on their time­lines sym­pa­this­ing with what was posted.

“Il­lum morna l-beach bil-car nagħmlu splash fil-wa­ter. Qgħadt nagħmel dive u nara l-fishies”

“This is no one way to speak. Use one lan­guage or the other. But don’t mash both,” Reuben told The Malta In­de­pen­dent.

He ex­plained that his love for the Maltese lan­guage started from a young age but flour­ished when he started his stud­ies. “You start dis­cov­er­ing where cer­tain words come from and how they can be used. It is wildly in­ter­est­ing,” he said.

The De­gior­gios de­cided to use Face­book to pass on their mes­sage as it is the most ef­fi­cient way of spread­ing the word. Reuben takes care of the re­search and his sis­ter Au­dri­enne han­dles the il­lus­tra­tions.

“We are not here to teach. I have no au­thor­ity to do so. All I want to do is share my ideas and knowl­edge.”

The project is still in its in­fancy. The Face­book page is only a cou­ple of months old and the sub­scrip­tions on the page are slowly grow­ing.

“Our posts are aimed at rais­ing aware­ness, by pulling legs or by be­ing very se­ri­ous,” he said while com­ment­ing on a post crit­i­cis­ing how par­ents teach their chil­dren to speak mixed English and Maltese.

“It is a known fact that ide­ally, you don’t mix up the lan­guages. Our chil­dren are able to ab­sorb more than one lan­guage, but they have to be taught the lan­guages sep­a­rately. We tend to change the nouns or verbs in a sen­tence, think­ing we’re ac­tu­ally help­ing our child’s bilin­gual­ism. But this is not how bilin­gual­ism works.”

But Reuben is not all pes­simistic about the Maltese lan­guage and ap­pre­ci­ates how lo­cal artists pre­fer to use their na­tive lan­guage in­stead of English. Bands like Brodu, Brikkuni and Plato’s Dream Ma­chine, to men­tion just a few, have all man­aged to cham­pion the Maltese lan­guage in their melodic art.

The page spreads knowl­edge on how to de­scribe very par­tic­u­lar things, from the dif­fer­ent phases of the moon and the parts which make up Maltese feast pavil­ions.

Reuben ex­plained that his love for the Maltese lan­guage grew even more when he left Malta some seven years ago. “I do ap­pre­ci­ate my mother lan­guage more. Some­times I even miss speak­ing in non­tech­ni­cal Maltese. Here at the Euro­pean Union, we have to trans­late very tech­ni­cal doc­u­ments and some­times I tend to use this lan­guage on a daily ba­sis.

“It is through small ef­forts that we can ac­tu­ally safe­guard our mother tongue. Let’s say it’s Christ­mas time. Most of us feel more com­fort­able say­ing Happy Christ­mas in­stead of il-Milied it-Ta­j­jeb. It is of course un­der­stand­able, and no one will pun­ish you for say­ing it in English. But our mes­sage here is that if there is a way of say­ing it in Maltese, use your na­tive lan­guage first.”

Reuben might sound like a tra­di­tional lan­guage nazi, but he also ac­knowl­edges that it is in the na­ture of ev­ery lan­guage to evolve and merge oth­ers into it. “I know some Span­ish friends who re­fer to the roof as el rufo. The Span­ish lan­guage, ob­vi­ously, has a word for roof (which is techo) but for some rea­son there are those who pre­fer to say it oth­er­wise.”

Għidha bil-Malti can be found on Face­book, In­sta­gram and Twit­ter.

Reuben and Au­dri­enne

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