When Malta was granted independence on September 21, 1964, Maltese (or Malti) was proclaimed the national language. The official languages of Malta are Maltese and English, with the former being the national language and the latter being considered as the language of business. With its Arabic, Italian, Sicilian, English and French influences, Maltese remains the only standardised Semitic language written in the Latin alphabet, and is also the only official Semitic language of the European Union.
It would be wonderful to report that you’ll be conversing freely in Maltese in a matter of months. The truth is that Maltese is a tricky language to learn, especially when it comes to the verbs. This is a Semitic language, where verbs are ‘triliteral’ and conjugated with prefixes, suffixes and infixes (i.e. three different consonants denote the general meaning of the word, and the combination of vowels before, after and in between those consonants denote the tense or specify the meaning). For speakers of Latin based languages, it’s a difficult concept and makes it hard to pick up the language from listening or reading without a fair amount of study. Maltese is peppered with familiar English and Italian words however, which helps you to get the context and many speakers weave in and out of English and Maltese naturally.
The other hurdle is that the Maltese will inevitably speak to you in English all the time, so it may be difficult to practice the language. Still, free lessons are available through the government and it’s certainly not impossible to learn if you put in some effort.
If you have kids of school age, you should make an extra effort to learn so that you can help out, as they are likely to be taught in Maltese (unless you send them to private school). Children will also have to pass a compulsory Maltese O-level, especially if they are to attend the University of Malta.
Under EU law, the children of EU nationals migrating to another EU country for work are entitled to free language tuition. You can view the schedule of Maltese classes here.
If you are not a native speaker of English, you’ve come to the right place - Malta is a major hub for learning English as a foreign language. Prices tend to be lower than the UK and the promise of better weather and smaller, intimate schools draws people from all over the world. With 50 schools available, your biggest problem will be deciding which one to go for. The English as a Foreign Language Monitoring Board of Malta (under the Ministry of Education and Employment) is the official body for accrediting English schools in Malta. The English Language Teaching council has a useful guide to learning English in Malta.
For most skilled positions in the private sector, you don’t need to speak Maltese. It is a bonus if you can learn it when you get here though - this might take your Maltese colleagues by surprise but if you persevere you’ll gain a lot of cultural brownie points. For white collar jobs, the business language is generally English.As a foreigner, where should I send my kids to school?
There is a free state school system in Malta which is open to everyone and church schools are free too (although they require donations and are usually oversubscribed). Many foreigners choose to send their children to private school, in part because tuition is in English rather than Maltese. Fees vary from a few thousand Euros a year to considerably more than that.