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‘We must not forget the spoken language’

Did you know that Di and Do were two gunboats that were berthed in Kalkara for a long time?

Or that the symbol Ħ is used only in the Maltese language?

And how do you pronounce the Maltese version of elastic: lastku, lasktu or lakstu?

These curiosities and other information about the Maltese language are continuously being uploaded on a Facebook page called Kelma Kelma, which was launched last month and has already garnered more than 6,400 likes.

When University of Malta lecturer and PhD graduate Michael Spagnol set up the page, he never expected the positive feedback he received from people of all ages. The 27-year-old said the page inspired some followers to start reading Maltese poetry again and encouraged others to go back to writing in Maltese.

Called after the national poet’s first verse of Il-Kelma, the page is divided in 11 sections, including the word of the day, like bużillis, sapjosesswali, sinifiteti and new words that are making their way into our language like tiffrejpja.

The sections also include brain teasers, proverbs, poetry excerpts and nursery rhymes.

Dr Spagnol uploads colourful templates in each section, focusing on a particular word, phrase or verse.

Kelma Kelma reflects the young man’s love for the “live Maltese language” that is still evolving, adopting and adapting words as it goes along. His uploads include definitions of tikklikkja, tillajkja, tifflittja and mazza.

“I know some might look down on these words and, yet, we still use them on a daily basis. The language is not just what we read in dictionaries or grammar books but language is alive... we must not forget the colourful spoken language.”

Dr Spagnol said there was a common perception that if we were not able to write grammatically-correct Maltese we did not know the language, even if we spoke it well.

“I was also of the impression that many gave Maltese language the side but, through this Facebook page, I realised that there is huge thirst out there for the Maltese language.

“Facebook is dominated by the English language. Even Maltese speakers tend to post in English. Some of those who post in English would feel artificial because they’re not speaking their mother-tongue while others use broken English.

“There is this weird tendency with us Maltese. We tend to speak in Maltese and set up political and satirical online pages in Maltese but then write shopping lists and send e-mails in English,” he said.

The Facebook page is transforming into a pool of knowledge where people share Maltese phrases common in their localities and riddles they remember from their childhood, among others.

And Dr Spagnol admits that whenever he logs on the Facebook page to upload a new template or read through the comments after a long day, he always learns something new.

https://www.facebook.com/#!/kelmakelma.mt?fref=ts

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