A language academy to save Judeo-Spanish – ANSAmed

Posted By on August 5, 2017

(by Paola Del Vecchio)

MADRID - Over five centuries after Queen Isabel the Catholic in 1492 expelled Spain's Jews and Moors, the Judeo-Spanish language, which has been passed from generation to generation and is still spoken in some countries will be honored by the country's top linguistic authority, the Spanish Royal Academy. The Academy has announced that it will set up in 2018 a Judeo-Spanish branch in Israel.

Judeo-Spanish, or Ladino, is still spoken today in the countries where Sephardic Jews moved at the time, from North Africa to the Balkans, Italy, Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines and Latin America.

The director of the RAE, Dario Villanueva, said the creation of the new branch aims to ''pay an historic debt to Sephardic Jews''.

He said the initiative also aimed to preserve a ''cultural and historical phenomenon of great importance''.

''The Jews who were expelled in 1492 dispersed around Europe and the Americas, taking with them the Spanish language as it was spoken at the time of their expulsion'', he told the Guardian newspaper. ''All of this has been miraculously preserved over the centuries. There's literature, folklore, translations of the Bible and even modern newspapers written in Ladino''.

Villaneuva is already in contact with professors, experts and institutions to create the new academy, to be based in Tel Aviv, with the support of the National authority of the Sephardic community, the Sefarad-Israel Casa center and the Spanish and Israeli governments. The language, whose conservation suffered under the diaspora and holocaust, includes many terms of archaic Spanish and has been influenced by the language of countries that hosted the refugees.

One of the initiative's promoters, Shmuel Rafael Vivante, a member of the executive committee of the national authority and director of the Center Naime and Yehoushua Salti for Judeo-Spanish studies of the University Bar-Llan, has dedicated his life to preserving and rebuilding the memory of the language spoken by his family.

Judeo-Spanish words and expressions were taught in his family, along with Sephardic customs and songs, he said, calling the language one of ''happiness''.

''It was the language of happiness that filled my mother's social space with neighbors and that of my father with friends and holocaust survivors'', the researcher told El Diario.

Over time, Judeo-Spanish lost importance compared to Hebrew, which was increasingly spoken in ghettoes. According to Vivante, there are today some400,000 people in Israel with some knowledge of Ladino. Esther Bendahan, a writer and director of the Casa Sefarad-Israel in Madrid, said the language has been lost in countries such as the Netherlands and the UK but not ''in North Africa, the Balkans and Turkey''.

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A language academy to save Judeo-Spanish - ANSAmed

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