Linguists turn conservation efforts to Ladino

A new branch of the Spanish Royal Academy will aim to preserve the ancient language of Spanish Jews


Madrid’s official body for safeguarding the Spanish language is to broaden its efforts and start conserving the Jewish language Ladino. 

The Spanish Royal Academy (RAE) has announced that it will set up a Judaeo-Spanish — or Ladino — branch in Israel. It already has 23 branches worldwide dedicated to Spanish languages. 

One of Israel’s leading Ladino scholars, Professor Shmuel Refael of Bar Ilan University, said: “We have started the very first steps to establish an academy in Israel that will be associated with the academy in Madrid.”

He said that the news comes amid something of a Ladino resurgence. “There are many activities related to Ladino in Israel right now,” Mr Refael said. 

Ladino is also getting more exposure in the United States. A New York-based Ladino-speaking musician, Sarah Aroeste, has just released what is believed to be the first English-Ladino children’s book, titled Ora de Despertar or Time To Wake Up

Professor Refael did not go into details about the establishment of the new organisation, in which he expected to play a part, saying it is a “delicate” process.

The director of the RAE, Darío Villanueva, told the Guardian that the “idea isn’t to absorb Ladino into modern Spanish, it’s the opposite: to preserve it.” He added that Ladino was spoken by Spanish Jews when they were expelled from Spain in the 15th century, and said it has been “miraculously preserved”.

The decision over Ladino comes two years after Spain ruled that descendants of Jews expelled in 1492 can apply for Spanish citizenship.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive