New show! La Esquina

Here at LangShack we have a new weekly podcast show. This will be released every Saturday! Filmed in the morning and released in the evening. In the future when the show gets a bigger following, we want to go live every weekend and have a live discussion with our followers and subscribers! Spread the world and check out La Esquina! First episode featured below!

Travel and language learning plans for 2019

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I had quite a difficult time figuring out how I could fit in four different vacations and two new languages in one year but it seems to be cracked (for now, that is). I have always wanted to go to Polynesia because my favorite group of languages is spoken there, I first fell in love with Hawaiian (‘Olelo Hawai’i), and after not being successful at securing a Hawaiian speaking host family, I gave up. I quickly found an alternative that would prove to be a success, the island of Rapa Nui, more commonly known as Easter Island. The language was more isolated than Hawaiian, Tahitian or Maori and has a lot of interesting evolutions (e.g. vi’e for v/wahine – “woman”). Another weird thing that happened was lot of metathesis but the sounds have stayed relatively in tact and have not experienced as much change as say, modern O’ahu Hawaiian. 

Anyways, I did a Facebook poll of six Polynesian countries and the most went to Rapa Nui, so that’s the destination for the Pacific. The other three places are Brazil for a week, Cape Verde and the Azores again, and a week at a Maya immersion school in Yucatan. The great thing is that families in Yucatan are still speaking Maya in the home, and the school actually has Maya-speaking host families, so I have started learning that. Once I finish a Maltese-Tunisian Arabic/continuum mutuality study, then I am going to start on Rapa Nui, and will do Maori at the same time so as to be able to understand Maori news from New Zealand.

Hebrew-Maltese conversation? Huh?

The other day I decided that I wanted to speak only Maltese with one of my language enthusiast friend and he’d respond in Hebrew, both our favorite languages, respectively. We have been trying to move away from using English as our main language, in order to enjoy the fun of foreign languages! He already speaks Hebrew at a high intermediate level, but I only know a handful of phrases and words, whereas he understands some Maltese from the load of Sicilian words that are etched into Maltese. All I wanted to do was to understand Hebrew spoken with my current goal being understanding the basic language and its structure.

Despite the fact that FSI courses are probably considered out-of-date because most of the ones available in the Public Domain were produced in the late 60s and early 70s, I chose them. However, they provide very good courses that have many exercises and drills, that can be done both by hand and by listening-responding, as well as the grammar explanations. The Hebrew course has 40 units, which makes it good enough to get a basic grounding in the grammar, and a good deal of vocabulary, which is exactly how much I need to get started with our Maltese-Hebrew language exchange. 

Visit this website, it doesn’t just have FSI courses, but DLI (Defense Language Institute), Peace Corps courses, and some others, all accompanied with audio, when available. 

Leftovers of “pure” Semitic roots in Maltese?

This article is about a recent small little research project we’ve decided to take on to try an interesting experiment. The Maltese language is fascinating because it contains a Semitic grammar system and syntax, and the vocabulary reflects the historical foreign rule of the island nation. Many foreign nations ruled Malta including the Phoenicians, Arabs, the French, the British, and the Kingdom of Sicily for the most part. Although some claim that Maltese is Phoenician at its core, there hasn’t been any conclusive evidence to confirm this. The Sicilian language has contributed most of the vocabulary of modern Maltese, nearly 50%, but there is still a good portion of what was the Siculo-Arabic “dialect”/”language” of Arabic, at figures ranging from 32%-40%. English has been contributing many new words into the language recently, but the Maltese people still create new words using their native Siculo-Semitic vocabulary. Maltese is considered a separate language for many reasons, and will be treated as such in this article, however, there are many proponents who advocate for the inclusion of Maltese as an Arabic dialect, but this has been met with much controversy. 

However, what we want to know is, what would happen if you took all the Siculo-Italian words out of Maltese, and communicated using only the Semitic elements of the language. What would that entail? Would it be more possible to speak with neighboring speakers of Arabic “dialects” (Tunsi, Shams, Moroccan, etc)? The thought is that most of the vocabulary would be very basic in nature, dealing with religion (leftover Islamic terms re-purposed for Catholicism in Malta), household activities, agriculture, nature, and ancient life. However, with this vocabulary, could one from Malta get around and live their life well in an Arabic-speaking country? 

What was the Maltese/Siculo-Arabic dialect? In Muslim-controlled Malta, was Malta a crossroads for different Arabic “dialects”? Features show mainly from the Maghrebi dialects, many from Egyptian Arabic, and surprisingly enough, quite a few from Levantine Arabic. As we discover more information about the Semitic Maltese that is left, or “Malti Safi” as Mikiel Anton Vassalli referred to it, we will write more articles about these features. For questions about this work, or about historical Maltese/Siculo-Arabic, send us a contact email!

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