An Academia for Ladino!

Regular readers of this blog already know that I’m a big fan of the Spanish language academy system, consisting of the Real Academia Española (RAE) and its 22 sister institutions, and collectively known as the Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española (ASALE).

I now have a new reason to love the Academia: the institution now expects to add a new sister academy, based in Israel, that is devoted to Ladino. Also known as Judeo-Spanish, or judeoespañol, Ladino is the language of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 and their descendants. Once spoken by hundreds of thousands of Jews around the Mediterranean, especially in Turkey, the language is now in danger of extinction. Unlike Yiddish, its German-based counterpart, which is still spoken as a first language by Hasidic communities in Israel and the United States, Ladino lacks fresh native speakers, and its older speakers are dying out.

A language academy for Ladino wouldn’t save the language, but it would help to conserve, study, and honor it.

According to an article in El Cultural, the RAE/ASALE has approved the formation of the Academy and has passed the bureaucratic baton to the State of Israel. Once Israel recognizes the Academy, it can then formally apply for membership in ASALE. It is hoped that this will take place by the next ASALE convention in 2019.

Very exciting!


2 thoughts on “An Academia for Ladino!

  1. Linda Nelson

    Judy, you would have been proud of me – talking to a Turkish Jewish friend of my daughter’s who came home with her for a long weekend, I asked her if she knew Ladino. Alas, the grandparents did but she did not. Btw, she added that one of her grandmothers reads novels in French and said there were few left who felt more comfortable reading French than Spanish. The older ones are not fluent in Turkish.

    1. jhochberg Post author

      Great to hear from you, Linda! Your daughter’s friend’s experience is typical — Ladino has not been transmitted, and when its current speakers die out, it will no longer be anyone’s first language. Pretty sad, and a dramatic contrast with Yiddish which continues to thrive.


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