Native speakers: 520,000. Malta has two official languages: Maltese and English, but Maltese is the national language. Until 1934, Italian was also official language in Malta. The country have been governed by so many different countries in the past, the Maltese population is often generally very good to converse in languages which are not native to their islands, mostly English and Italian. The Maltese language is written with a modified Latin Alphabet which includes the graphemes ż, ċ, ġ, ħ, and għ.
According to the Eurobarometer poll conducted in 2012, 98% of Maltese people can speak Maltese, 88% can speak English, 66% can speak Italian, and more than 17% speak French. This shows a recent increase in fluency in languages, since in 1995, while 98% of the population spoke Maltese, only 76% spoke English, 36% Italian, and 10% French. It shows an increase in Italian fluency, compared to when Italian was an official language of Malta, due to Italian television broadcasts reaching Malta.
According to the 2011 census, there were 377,952 people aged 10 and over, of whom 357,692 people (94.7%) declared that they spoke Maltese at least at an average level, 248,570 (82.1%) that they spoke English at least at an average level and 93,401 (43.7%) that they spoke Italian at least at an average level, out of a scale made of "Well", "Average", "A little" and "Not at all". French, Russian and Spanish are the other main languages studied in secondary and tertiary education.
Maltese is the national language of Malta and a co-official language of the country alongside English, while also serving as an official language of the European Union, the only Semitic language so distinguished. Maltese is descended from Siculo-Arabic, the extinct variety of Arabic that developed in Sicily and was later introduced to Malta, between the end of the ninth century and the end of the twelfth century. Maltese has evolved independently of Classical Arabic and its varieties into a standardized language over the past 800 years in a gradual process of Latinisation. Maltese is therefore exceptional as a variety of Arabic that has no diglossic relationship with Classical or Modern Standard Arabic. Maltese morphology has been deeply influenced by Romance languages, namely Italian and Sicilian.
The original Semitic base of Maltese, Siculo-Arabic, comprises around one-third of the Maltese vocabulary, especially words that denote basic ideas and the function words, but about half of the vocabulary is derived from standard Italian and Sicilian; and English words make up between 6% and 20% of the vocabulary. A 2016 study shows that, in terms of basic everyday language, speakers of Maltese are able to understand less than a third of what is said to them in Tunisian Arabic, which is related to Siculo-Arabic, whereas speakers of Tunisian are able to understand about 40% of what is said to them in Maltese. This reported level of asymmetric intelligibility is considerably lower than the mutual intelligibility found between Arabic dialects.
Maltese has always been written in the Latin script, the earliest surviving example dating from the late Middle Ages. It continues to be the only standardized Semitic language written exclusively in the Latin script.
Great Britain formally acquired possession of Malta in 1814. The island staunchly supported the UK through both world wars and remained in the Commonwealth when it became independent in 1964. A decade later Malta became a republic. Since about the mid-1980s, the island has transformed itself into a freight transshipment point, a financial center, and a tourist destination. Malta became an EU member in May 2004 and began using the euro as currency in 2008.
Population: 412,655 (July 2014 est.)
Physicians density: 3.23 physicians/1,000 population (2011)
Illicit drugs: Minor transshipment point for hashish from North Africa to Western Europe.
(End of text/excerpt from the CIA World FactBook 2016.)
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