Visiting the islands? Here are some essential Maltese words and phrases to get you started
These words will definitely prove to be useful.
As a former British colony, Malta has been an officially bilingual country since 2005, when the Maltese Language Act was written into the Constitution.
This means that the vast majority of the Maltese population understands and speaks English to some degree, whilst a smaller, yet still significant portion of the population also speaks and understands Italian.
While most travellers – especially English-speaking ones - won’t necessarily have any trouble communicating with locals, it would be beneficial to know some Maltese words and phrases just in case a language barrier presents itself.
With that being said, here are a couple of Maltese words and phrases that are bound to come in handy throughout your stay on the islands. Here we go!
Bonġu / Il-lejl it-tajjeb
We’ll start off simple with these two greetings.
Bonġu (pronounced bon-joo), means good day. Italian and French speakers might recognise this word from its resemblance to buongiorno and bonjour.
Il-lejl it-tajjeb (pronounced ill-leyl it-tie-yep), means good night or good evening.
Iva / le
Iva (pronounced ee-vah), means yes, while le means no.
More informal forms of iva are ijja (ee-yah) or eħe (e-he), so anytime you’re asked a question, feel free to use those.
If you’d like to say that you don’t know, say ma nafx (pronounced ma naf-sh)
Jekk jogħġbok (pronounced yeck yodge-bock) means please. Unfortunately, due to the English language’s influence on Malta’s languagescape, please is more widely used and jekk jogħġbok has been isolated to more formal use.
Having said that, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using jekk jogħġbok in informal situations.
Grazzi (pronounced grats-ee) means thank you. Similarly to jekk jogħġbok, grazzi’s usage has decreased in favour of its English counterpart – so using it would be a breath of fresh air for locals!
While this word literally translates to excuse me, skużani (pronounced skoo-zah-nee) can also be used to mean sorry. However, since sorry is used quite regularly, skużani has been generally left for more formal settings. Still, using this word in either context is still correct, so go for it!
Kif immur [insert place]?
This phrase (pronounced keef im-moor) literally translates to how can I get to… - so it’s perfect for when you need directions. All you have to do is utter this phrase along with your destination – just don’t forget to say please and thank you!
Kif immur il-Belt Valletta, jekk jogħġbok? – How can I get to Valletta, please?
Kif immur iċ-Ċirkewwa, jekk jogħġbok? – How can I get to Ċirkewwa, please?
One way of getting around Malta is via our public bus system, colloquially known as tal-linja (pronounced tull-linn-yuh).
In case there’s any misunderstanding during your conversations, look no further! This phrase, pronounced as mah fimm-teksh, translates to I didn’t understand you.
Also in case of misunderstandings, this phrase, pronounced tiss-tuh tir-rep-pet-tea, literally means could you repeat?
If English seems to be the only way to communicate effectively – this is the phrase for you! Pronounced as tit-kell-emm bling-lease, this literally translates to do you speak English?
Since most of the population speaks English, finding someone who’s fluent shouldn’t be an issue.
Hopefully, you won’t need to use this, but in case of a medical emergency, this word (pronounced sp-tar) means hospital.
If all you need is a doctor, you can use the word tabib (tah-beep). If the situation warrants an ambulance, however, the word to use is ambulanza (amm-boo-lants-ah).
Since Malta’s a bilingual country, Maltese isn’t necessary when calling emergency numbers – but you never know!
This word has many meanings, and they’re all dependent on the content in which it’s used.
For example, if used in response to a question, mela (mell-ah) translates to ‘sure’ or ‘of course’.
Moving on to the phrase mela le – if you hear this being uttered in a positive tone, then refer to the above. If you sense a tinge of sarcasm, however, then it’s probably being used in a sarcastic manner, same way you’d say ‘sure thing’ sarcastically.
Another way to use mela would be at the beginning of a sentence. In this case, mela would serve the same purpose ‘so’ does in the beginning of a sentence.
Mela also happens to be the past participle of jimla (he fills).
Do you have any suggestions of your own?