Examiners denounce the Menglish scourge: ‘over-populazzjoni’, ‘staġju’ and ‘kustomers’

Exam reports denounce increased tendency by students to directly translate English idioms and expressions to Maltese and even using English words written in Maltese phonetics

Maltese exam papers: Students pepper their replies with 'English' words
Maltese exam papers: Students pepper their replies with 'English' words

Reports on the performance of students in Maltese examinations at Ordinary, Intermediate and Advanced levels have denounced the increased tendency of students to use English words, idioms, morphological structure and expressions. 

According to an examiner report for the Advanced level exam this phenomenon reflects “the increased presence of people hailing from families of foreign provenance, which also includes many students sitting for the exam.” 

The A-level report lists a number of examples of this “interference” which according to the report has a major impact bound to condition the future direction of the Maltese language. 

The list of words used by students include avvantaġġ (advantage), danġeruż (dangerous); elektriku (electric), fiżikali (physical), konstruzzjoni (construction), numbru (number), substanzi (substances), conċern (concern) fuq il-banda l-oħra ( on the other side), fuq it-triq (on the road), ippromotjati (promoted), isalvaw l-enerġija (save energy) and jieħdu ħajjithom b’idejhom (they take their own lives). 

Moreover, there is an increased tendency to construct Maltese words on phonetical and morphological models, derived from the English language. Examples cited from exam papers include staġju (stage), obsessjon (obsession), similari (similar), negletta (neglected), spesifikament (specifically), optimiżmu (optimism), inħabitata (disinhibited), signifikanti (significantly) , inspirata (inspired), eventi (events) and ħarmonija (harmony). 

English influence is also evident at idiomatic level. Examples of this include jilgħab il-pjanu (playing the piano), jiġi għall-konklużjoni (arrive at the conclusion) and saqsieha tiżżewġu (asked her to marry him). Others simply resorted directly to English words using word play such as ‘qalbu mimlija envy’ (his heart was full of envy) instead of ‘qalbu mimlija għira’. 

The same pattern in the use English and in some cases Italian expressions were observed in the O-level report. Examples found in essays and reports presented by students included overpopulazzjoni (overpopulation), maxinerija tal-bottles tal-plastic (reverse vending machines), irridu noqogħdu viġilanti (we need to be vigilant), inħobbu nilagħbu ċ-ċajt fuq xulxin (play jokes on each other), il-biċikletta (bicycle), il-fattoriji (factory), il-farmaċija (pharmacy) and spakkat (cracked). 

The report also denounces the repeated use of English fillers like “so” which is often use as a conjunction. 

Curiously a number of students used English words written using Maltese phonetics. These included the words kustomers (customers). 

During the reading component in the intermediate level exam, a number of students read the % symbol as “perċentwali” or “persentaġġ” instead of “fil-mija”, and several simply read it in English (percent). Other “linguistic interferences” noted in the oral interview included the direct use of English colloquial expressions like “for example”, “on the whole” and “I mean”. 

The report on the intermediate exam concludes that “the influence of English on Maltese is sometimes resulting in serious deficiencies including the word by word translation of English phrases. Examples cited in the report include “l-avveniment se jieħu post” (the event will take place) , “m’għadux fl-istampa” (out of the the picture).