Learning Maltese as well as English essential, migrant study shows

A study by the EU’s Erasmus programme has found that migrant workers find it hard to access training with daily concerns about their jobs, families and securing legal status

The survey indicates that although training in English is considered as a more pressing need, a substantial percentage also recognise the importance of learning Maltese
The survey indicates that although training in English is considered as a more pressing need, a substantial percentage also recognise the importance of learning Maltese

Migrant workers in Malta say learning the Maltese language was considered “important” to them (48%), according to an EU study, with a further 17% saying it was “essential”.

The study by the EU’s Erasmus programme, however, also found that 35% of migrants did not see learning Maltese as important, with all respondents saying training in English was ‘important’ and ‘essential’.

The study, carried out across five EU countries, found that 81% of migrants in Malta had never received any type of training, complaining that more day-to-day responsibilities made it hard for them to access language training and education.

Half said they could not find information on training programmes, while 30% said they had no time left for training due to their working lives.

The study found the greatest obstacles to pursuing training opportunities stemmed from work and family priorities, more pressing issues such as legal status, and the “sometimes unclear link” between the training itself and what value it gives to the migrant’s daily life.

The survey also indicates that although training in English is considered as a more pressing need, a substantial percentage also recognise the importance of learning Maltese.

Most of those who have actually received some training had done so in learning either Maltese or English, with 57% saying the training had been ‘useful’.

More than 75% would like training on local culture and all respondents recognised the importance of learning about local laws, saying they considered job-related training important or essential.

But half of the respondents consider training in European values as being not important. 52% also said training in understanding European laws and institutions as not important.

The results show that the majority of the participants (55%) do not have an opinion about what kind of training they prefer, but many participants (26%) answered that they prefer to have face-to-face training.

The majority (74%) would be willing to travel up to 30 minutes to have training, 55% would be willing to spend from 5 to 10 hours in training per week, and 59% prefer training in the evening.

The survey was based on a non-representative sample of 151 migrants in all participant countries, 27 of which hailing from Malta. The migrants interviewed in Malta hailed from a variety of countries including Serbia, Libya and the Philippines.

62% of all migrants interviewed in all five countries have never received training as migrants in their host country.

Migrants interviewed in a focus group reported that Identity Malta, which deals with residence permits, was “especially difficult to deal with”. According to one participant, “the frustrations created by these bureaucratic hurdles de-motivate migrants”.

Migrants coming from non-English speaking backgrounds said their first priority is learning English or Maltese. “Without knowledge of either of these two languages it is not possible to access any of the other training.”

The participants insisted their first priority was securing their status in Malta, since without obtaining a regularised status life is extremely problematic. Obtaining such a status and maintaining it was considered complex.

Another priority was getting work and working as much as possible to secure their economic position. In this context the participants stressed that not all employers were cooperating in allowing their workers time for training. As one participant stated, “migrants cannot focus on education when they have more basic problems”.

Some of the participants mentioned the fact that they had very little time left for attending training when they had to keep up with work, family responsibilities and “chasing Maltese bureaucracy”.

Respondents expressed mixed views with regards to training possibilities through e-learning. While some thought that the number of migrants who had the aptitude to use such methods was limited, others believe that there was a significant proportion of the migrant community, especially younger migrants, who would be more inclined to use e-learning, something which may encourage the older migrants to learn from their younger relatives. A unanimous preference was expressed in favour of phone apps. It was, however, pointed out that language could be an issue and that it was recommended to have Arabic and Amharic versions available to expand the possible target audience.

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