Society & Culture & Entertainment Education

Teaching English to Maltese Students

The first English Examination that our students officially sit for is known as the SEC Exam.
"SEC" stands for Secondary Education Certificate and students are usually between the ages of 16 and 18 when they sit for it.
SEC is the equivalent of the old English 'O' Level.
This exam tests the fluency, grammar, sentence structure and originality of the use of the English language by the Maltese student.
It regards the Maltese student as having English as his second language.
I do not agree with this perception.
Two decades ago Maltese society regarded the English language as being the Maltese student's second language so an elevated level of fluency was expected from such student.
Officially, English is the second language in Malta; this is also declared in our Constitution.
However, I think that nowadays our students can no longer be regarded as having English as their second language.
This is because during these last few years Maltese has been given more importance than ever before and our students seem to be more focussed on it than before.
Moreover, our students are influenced by the media which is largely the Italian media here in Malta.
I would also dare to believe that Italian could be more of a second language to many Maltese students than English is.
When I was young, learning English was much more important than learning Maltese.
I remember, that at the school that I attended ( a nun's school) our mistress of discipline used to fine us five cents for speaking Maltese instead of English! The coin seems to have turned now - you are frowned upon if you speak English to your fellow citizens.
There is also the tendency of 'snob' labelling.
I believe that it is very important to know your roots.
Your native language forms part of your roots.
However, speaking another language should not trigger controversies related to patriotism or rejection of your roots or heritage.
Speaking English is merely a way of communicating and the person who chooses to speak English rather than Maltese may have his reasons.
It is a well-known fact that Maltese vocabulary is extremey limited.
Not all feelings can be expressed in the Maltese language.
I think that this is one of the reasons why a portion of the Maltese population chooses to express itself in English.
The English SEC examination should not consider the Maltese student as an almost-native speaker of English anymore.
It should regard the Maltese student as learning English as a second language.
I believe that if this were the case, the pressure on Maltese students would decrease.
The SEC exam tests a wide area of the Maltese student's knowledge of the English language and sometimes it expects much more than the student can give.

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