Sunday 17 February 2019

Welcome to gobbledygook Maltese

If something drastic is not done to stop this nonsense of writing English words in a phonetic way to turn them into Maltese, I think it will really spell the end of our native language.

I’m not being melodramatic here: lately someone old me that on a news portal they saw the word “fire extinguisher” written “‘fajerextingwixer”  and I almost went into cardiac arrest. In a Facebook advert, the phrase “they don’t acknowledge (your letter)” was translated into “ma jaknoligjawkx”.

Someone kill me, now.

This is gibberish; a gobbledygook invented language which is massacring both English and Maltese.

I think my patience finally snapped when I saw uffixjal fenpejg (official fan page) used on Facebook by the people who produce the Bla Kondixin satirical show…no, sorry this is not satire unless you think it’s funny to ruin the language on the pretext of mocking those who have a rough accent in English. All this “funny’ spelling is just plain puerile. First of all if we are going to mock (in print) those whose English is not exactly as it should be spoken, let’s go all the way and mock all the weird pseudo British accents and bungled syntax which pain my ears every day, “You went to the beach? oh ajma, as if, there were xeba’ people, maaa! ”

The thing is, when the FB page called “Sliema girls say” tried to make fun of the tal-pepè accent it was amusing for a while but it soon fizzled out.  Sure we joke around with these accents verbally all the time, code-switching to our heart’s content, but verbal mockery is quite different to the written form, unless we are writing a novel or short story where we are deliberately depicting specific characters who speak in a certain way.

I realize some find it “funnier” to put down those whose grasp of English is not that strong, but the problem with mocking bad pronunciation in print is that by translating it into a written form you are taking the risk of it becoming mainstream.  Let’s face it, accents and pronunciations are all over the place on this island depending where you’re from, where you went to school and your family background, but this bright idea to invent words like the horribly offensive mowbajl  (mobile) is only serving to mangle correct standard Maltese. And no, this is not the natural evolution of a living language because from what I am told, this spelling is even being imposed on kids at school as it is being imposed on our TV programmes by the  Kunsill Nazzjonali tal-Ilsien Malti. There are even Maltese language books for children with the word bejbi – yes, that is meant to be “baby” (what happened to tarbija?) and ticer (“teacher” instead of the perfectly good word ghalliema).

My only reaction to these words is: ugh.

Just because we borrow words from English all the time during daily conversations, texting and FB usage does not mean it should become the way we write. Similarly, I would not write “‘coz” instead of “because” in an essay, just because I use it on FB or in an SMS.

When it comes to writing we need to be more attentive if we want our real language to survive, rather than leaving behind a convoluted mess which is neither here nor there.

On Facebook , something like “uffixjal fenpejg” (hilarious as it might be to some) is simply contributing to the further appalling standard of our two official languages as the recent ‘O’ level results have shown.  Because while we are busy holding our sides and howling with laughter, our students are understandably confused as to how exactly they should be spelling words in the two languages, and have ended up writing both, very, very badly.



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