Save the Semitic

A letter to the Maltese people:
I would like to suggest that Maltese people should seriously study Arabic. As a Finn with Iraqi roots who wants to relearn his once-lost Arabic, I feel at home in semi-Semitic Malta, but I am disappointed by the lack of interest in Arabic on the part of the Maltese, who seem much more eager to replace Semitic expressions with English ones. Some think Maltese only has “some common words” with Arabic, whereas others know that the basic structure and vocabulary are Arabic but don’t realize that this means the Maltese have a great potential to quickly master a language spoken by 420 million people.
“But they are Muslims!” Well, if you believe they are unhappily wrong and that there is something superior about Western culture or the Christian faith, perhaps you’d like to share it with them? And what better way to gain their respect than by learning their language? Besides, you might be surprised by the numerous commonalities, and would it really be such a bad thing to get to know the world’s second biggest religion a bit better?
In any case, Arabic is not just a Muslim thing. There are some millions of Arabic speaking Christians out there, an entire “cousin culture” of the Maltese whose riches could be explored for an entire lifetime. For the Maltese, learning Arabic is destined to be an exercise in self-discovery, carrying with it the promise of countless aha and eureka moments.
Granted, Arabic is difficult, with its alphabet, complex grammar, dialects and throat sounds. Maltese doesn’t have all that, and that’s part of the reason I came to Malta – to learn this simpler “European Arabic” first and then make my way toward the different forms of “real” Arabic. But you see, as a Maltese speaker you can skip the first part; you are already halfway there. Now just get on with part two and show us (and them) the way.

Photo Credit: Jean Noel Cutajar

Emil Anton is a PhD Candidate at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Helsinki. His doctoral dissertation is about Pope Benedict XVI and interreligious dialogue. He runs a Facebook page called Christianity Finnished.

One thought on “Save the Semitic

  • Reply Bernard Micallef 8th December 2016 at 10:32 am

    This is so true. This year I’ve been learning Arabic and it is interesting to see the origins of our language; not only because of the similarities but also for understanding certain phrases we use, certain notions which are expressed through language and certain developments in the language. I am really glad i chose to learn this beautiful language; it helps me feel connected to our past while also understanding my language today.

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