The Language Dilemma in the Maltese Legal Sphere

This Friday, the Junior Chamber of Advocates (JCA) held an important seminar related to a great topical issue, which is often spoken about on campus but never discussed in a public forum. However, JCA took initiative and organized ‘Maltese vs English: Legal Inquisition’, a seminar with the purpose of discussing the language dilemma between Maltese and English evident in the country’s legal sphere. Panel members for this seminar included Dr Joseph Izzo Clarke, Dr Charlene Gauci, Dr David Zammit and Dr. Michael Spagnol.

The starting point of this seminar was the discussion of a recent survey, also carried out by the JCA team, consisting of questions in relation to the Maltese and English within the legal profession and course in Malta. This survey included a total of 66 participants, all of whom are students enrolled in law course. The topic of interest of the survey was the fact that, currently, English is the expected language to be used by lectures, as demanded by the University of Malta, yet, however, the practice in Court is the use of Maltese.

The most crucial results which this survey produced were three. Firstly, that the majority of students were in agreement that litigating in Maltese is harder than in English. Secondly, as a result, a majority agree that both Maltese and English should be used in law lectures. Lastly, a substantial majority of students believe Maltese law terms in practice are difficult to use in practice since they are studied in English.

These results should be food for thought, and were certainly digested during the seminar as all the panel members presented valuable observations and opinions based on the results. What was observed was the fact that there should not be a ‘legal inquisition’ between the two languages, but instead to embrace both languages. It was noted by one of the panel-members that, evidently, only English is used in all areas of the law course, newly-graduated students find it hard to use ‘Malti Legali’ in court. Due to this issue, as well as the fact that lawyers may encounter clients speaking both of the languages, the majority of the panel-members agreed that the different languages should be used correctly to derive all available benefits.

What was also agreed upon was that, in order to establish regular and correct use of both languages in the legal sphere, certain standards should be set. For instance, a need for juridical Maltese should be developed which, whilst still remaining of certain quality, becomes understandable and accessible even to the ordinary citizen. Similarly, increased exposition to the Maltese legal terms can also be made during the initial years of the law course through the formulation of new study-units. The reasoning behind this is that the University of Malta has the role of preparing students for the working world and according to the needs of the Maltese society.

Thus, what may be concluded from this seminar is that Maltese should not be pushed away during the law-course. In order to be better prepared for the legal profession, law students should be properly exposed to a fair balance of both English and Maltese.

The Junior Chamber of Advocates is a sub-committee of the Chamber of Advocates with the objective of bridging the gap between law students and the legal profession. The JCA has also been recently Senate-recognised with the aim of continuing to further its mission statement.

Roberta Attard

Roberta Attard is a first-year law student at UoM. Her vast interests include, among others, history, literature and current affairs.She is small person with a big sense of humour.
Roberta Attard

Roberta Attard

Roberta Attard is a first-year law student at UoM. Her vast interests include, among others, history, literature and current affairs. She is small person with a big sense of humour.