Just like any other language, Maltese has several words and expressions which only make sense to locals who have mastered the tongue after many years of speaking it. Using these phrases will surely make you stand out and feel like a true Maltese when using them. Whilst the list is endless, here are 5 Maltese words and expressions to help foreigners fit in better with our unique Maltese culture.
1. Uwejja (oo-wei-ya)
Unconsciously, this versatile Maltese word may be one of the most used in our vocabulary. The meaning of the word changes according to which syllable you place emphasis on. You can use it to show annoyance and disapproval. For example;
“Anthony, clean your room please”
“Uwejja I don’t want to!”
You can also make use of this word to react to something which wasn’t expected, something you simply can’t believe.
“I heard that Glenn cheated on Isla last night.”
“Uwejja you’re serious????”
You cannot call yourself Maltese if you don’t say the word mela at least a hundred times a day. It doesn’t have a direct translation to English but it can be interpreted in several ways. The first is as a verb, probably the least used version of the word. It’s the past tense of the verb to fill in the third person male.
“Sandro mela l-barmil.” (Sandro filled the bucket.)
The Maltese also like to use it in the beginning of their sentences, having the same meaning as the word so in English.
“Mela, fejn konna?” (So, where were we?)
It’s also a way to show approval and that you are in agreement with someone.
“Nordnaw pizza llejla?” (Should we order a pizza tonight?)
“Mela!” (For sure!)
If said with a different tone, it could potentially be one of the most sarcastic words ever, so be careful how you use it.
“Għandek għarus Martina?” (Do you have a boyfriend Martina?)
“Ija mela ħamsa għandi.” (Of course, I have 5)
3. Bonġu, kif inti? (bon-ju) (keef in-tea)
If there’s anything the Maltese like, it’s greeting each other. It’s showing basic manners, and doing it in Maltese will earn you extra points with the locals for sure. By time you’ll eventually be using this phrase without realising. Whether you just entered the workplace, sat down in a cafe, or started small talk with the lady sitting next to you on the bus stop, this simple phrase coming out of a foreigner’s mouth is bound to make any Maltese smile. Bonġu means good morning and it’s very clearly derived from the Italian (buongiorno) and French (bonjour) language. Kif inti simply means how are you.
“Bonġu Sara, kif inti?” (Good morning Sara, how are you?)
4. Xi sħana! (she s-ha-na)
Malta is synonymous with hot and sunny weather. Whilst many are envious of this, leave it up to the Maltese to constantly complain about how hot and humid it is. It’s a typical conversation starter or mentioned anytime a conversation dies down and you’re desperately trying to pick it up again. Xi sħana means it’s so hot and is often used in conjunction with arm gestures of people fanning themselves.
“Xi sħana hawn dagħlodu!” (It’s so hot this morning!)
5. Ma nafx nitkellem bil-Malti (ma nafsh knit-kel-lem bill mal-tea)
The Maltese tongue is a complex and unique one, and locals themselves tend to find it difficult to learn. So although you might know a few expressions here and there, chances are that if someone goes on a tangent in Maltese, you’ll barely understand anything. The safest way out is to say ma nafx nitkellem bil-Malti which means I don’t know how to speak in Maltese. Without hesitation the locals will switch to English, but will also greatly appreciate your effort in trying to speak the language.
“Nista naqdik f’xi ħaġa?” (Can I help you with anything?)
“Skużani, ma nafx nitkellem bil-Malti. Can you repeat in English please?” (I don’t know how to speak in Maltese. Can you repeat in English please?)
6. Bonus- Curse Words
Whether you like it or not, the first things you’re bound to learn from a new language are the curse words and how to swear. Before you know it you’ll be speaking fluent Maltese every time you stub your toe with the corner of the bedside table or when you’re stuck in traffic on your way home from work. I won’t provide you with any examples in order to try keep this article as PG as possible. Having said that, I’m certain that if you ask any Maltese person they will surely help you out with a small evil chuckle.