Maltese language rarely used on the internet

A lot of websites on the internet are available in more than one language, and some in a number of different languages.  This is a topic that features every now and then on this blog, as we comment on which languages are most popular, how the languages in which a website are available affect the traffic to a website, and so on.

One language that doesn’t get much press or attention is Maltese.  Maltese is a very interesting language; about half of its vocabulary is borrowed from Italian and Sicilian, and English words make up as much as 20% of its vocabulary. 

93% of Maltese internet users browse the web in a foreign language, usually English, and 91% of those asked in a recent survey said they would rather use English than Maltese – just 6.5% of Maltese web users choose to browse the internet in their native language.  However, 82% of those asked thought that Maltese websites should be obliged to offer a Maltese version as well.

We have previously mentioned the importance of providing a website in a user’s native language, to ensure that they enjoy using the site and trust both the site and what it offers.  However, when translating their websites, a company must take into account the number of visitors, both current and potential, from various countries, and the languages they speak.  Translation is an investment, that can greatly affect the success of a website, and the number of people it is available to.  For a language spoken by less than 450,000 people, is it a realistic expectation to have more content in Maltese?  Are Maltese people a target that is on the radar of EU companies at all?

Does this low number of native speakers mean that those who do speak Maltese as their first language miss out on articles, books and websites in their own language?  Is this fair?  Can they expect text to be translated given that there are so few native speakers?  Should they be punished for speaking a language that has fewer speakers than other languages?  Let us know what you think, whether you’re from Malta and have an opinion on the lack of translation into your language, or you speak a language that has a similarly low number of native speakers, and how this affects you.