[lg policy] Utility of Maltese language
haroldfs at gmail.com
Mon Apr 30 15:37:29 EDT 2018
Utility of Maltese language - Francis Zammit Dimech
Representing the people of Malta within the European Parliament includes
identifying those subjects that are of a direct interest to us as a people
and speak up about such matters after consulting stakeholders and others
who would like to share with me their concerns, ideas and suggestions.
It is my firm belief that mobile applications should be available in
Maltese to ensure that the Maltese language is considered equal with other
languages in an ever-increasing digital world.
As we speak, Maltese is one of four European languages at risk of being
severely diminished due to underutilisation in technology.
Considering this fact, as a member of the European Parliament, I am
currently actively engaged in meeting stakeholders in Malta to submit
proposals which, among others, would facilitate the development of digital
literacy programmes and introduction of language technology training and
tools in education to live up to linguistic expectations in the digital age.
Several academics and leaders in the Maltese language already helped me
articulate a number of proposals directed to increase investment in
research and provide the facility to academic institutions to create their
language technology platforms.
These are just a few proposals within a wider set of a language equality
package for the digital age we are working on, because ultimately the
European Union is all about unity in diversity, yet we need to constantly
see how to live up to our expectations in a changing environment.
I am glad that through my role we identified education as the primary
policy tool to secure the future of language equality in the digital age
because education is the mother of all reforms.
The Maltese language needs to be boosted on digital platforms
Multilingualism presents one of the EU’s greatest assets of cultural
diversity through its 24 official languages and more than 60 national and
regional languages within it; but it is a challenge as well. It is an EU
objective to enable our citizens to communicate well in our mother tongue
plus two other key languages precisely to manage European multilingualism
Concurrently with my efforts in convincing colleagues that the Maltese
language needs to be boosted on digital platforms in the face of a
deepening digital divide between widely-used and lesser-used languages, our
government has put forward 14 proposals to “develop a more varied
curriculum” and an “alternative curriculum”.
Quite ironic, to say the least, considering that this Labour government is
going at a complete tangent from what we are strategically doing in the
Furthermore, whereas a PN government worked to make the Maltese language an
official language of the European Union, the Labour government wants to
make the Maltese language a foreign language in our own country.
This unjustified stand will not help but will neither discourage me from
sustaining my efforts on the tasks which I am working on within the
I am proud of my language and I make it a point to intervene in Maltese
whenever possible in the European Parliament because I understand the
significance of the heritage that my language carries in terms of national
patrimony and cultural identity.
Not only should our language be taught with the dignity and esteem that it
deserves, it must also start being given greater importance on digital
platforms, just as we are doing to promote the use of language technologies
within exchanges between European citizens within programmes such as
Erasmus+ to incentivise intercultural dialogue among native mother language
speakers and host foreign language ones, especially in written and
I believe that multilingualism is one of the most important assets of
Europe, while it poses one of the most substantial challenges for the
fulfilment of a sufficiently functionable Digital Single Market.
By bridging the technology gap for our people, we also want policies to
foster technology development for all European languages because the
preservation of a language and the culture around is crucial to live
together in the modern digital world.
Harold F. Schiffman
Professor Emeritus of
Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305
Phone: (215) 898-7475
Fax: (215) 573-2138
Email: haroldfs at gmail.com
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