Achraf Kassioui


The Maltese Language

Did you know people in the Maghreb write their dialect in Latin and use numbers to denote specific Arabic characters?

The Maltese language is fascinating to me. It hits very close to home.

It is a mix of Arabic, Italian, French and English written in Latin script:

Moorish looking streets of Malta
Paul Jorgensen. Presentation of the Maltese Language.

In this video, we learn that the Maltese Language branched out independently from North African Arabic during the Middle Ages. It detached from the Quran, and managed to mix Arabic, Latin languages and English in an official form spoken by hundreds of thousands of people.

I knew nothing about Maltese culture and language, but I immediately felt intimate with such a mix.

Moroccans for example speak a mix of Arabic, Berber, French and Spanish in a dialect called “darija”. In order to write darija on phones and computers, people use a mix of Latin characters and... numbers! The numbers are there to make up for specific Arabic characters which Latin script has no equivalent for, like “7” for “ح” or “9” for “ق”. For example, we can write “مرحبا” as “mar7ba”, which means welcome:

Moroccan pronunciation of the word “mar7ba”.