Watch: Can you speak Maltese as well as Jinjing?
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Watch: Can you speak Maltese as well as Jinjing?

Chinese academic plans to teach Maltese at Beijing University

Dr Xu believes that Maltese is easier than English. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

Jingjing Xu has only spent five months in Malta and can already hold a fluent conversation in Maltese.

The 30-year-old first heard of the Maltese language at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, where she teaches.

In the past, the language used to be taught at the university by Maltese lecturers. However, when Dr Xu saw that the teaching post had remained vacant over the past few years, she travelled to Malta herself.

Dr Xu plans on spending a year here as a visiting scholar at the University of Malta’s Department of Maltese, before heading back to her university to teach Maltese there.

Holding a whole conversation with Times of Malta in Maltese, she explained that she will be the first Chinese lecturer teaching the language at the Beijing Foreign Studies University.

Learn the language of a place that has such a rich history

But why would Chinese students want to learn Maltese?

“I believe that there are Chinese people who would like to come to Malta to study and work, while there are others who are interested in learning the language of a place that has such a rich history,” she said.

One of the things that gives Malta an edge over other languages is its unique way of bringing together the lexical structure and grammar of other languages, such as Arabic, English and Italian.

Asked whether she thought Maltese or Chinese was more difficult to grasp, Dr Xu said that she initially believed Maltese was really challenging. However, the Department of Maltese soon came to the rescue.

Still, Dr Xu admitted that Maltese was not easy compared to other languages she has studied – such as Japanese, Italian and English. Once back in Beijing, she plans on continuing streaming and listening to Maltese radio and TV programmes, while also translate literary works.

Dr Xu finds local expressions unique to the island to be quite interesting, and believes mela is “very cute”.

However, her favourite Maltese word remains dehen (roughly translated to reason, sound judgement, discernment or genius) which features in the national anthem, and sounds similar to deheb (gold).

Dr Xu, who loves the word’s unique meaning, has even come up with a phrase: id-dehen jiswa mitqlu deheb, which translates to ‘sound judgement is worth its own weight in gold’.

Watch Dr Xu speaking in Maltese on www.timesofmalta.com.

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