[Ads-l] Turkish Jews fighting to preserve Ladino

Mark Mandel markamandel at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 3 16:14:22 UTC 2020

*Istanbul Jews fight to save their ancestral tongue  *

*Ladino is a unique mix of medieval Castilian and Hebrew, with sprinklings
of Turkish, Arabic and Greek*


AFP / January 2, 2020

Istanbul (AFP) - If there's one thing Dora Beraha regrets in her twilight
years, it is not passing on the 500-year-old language of Istanbul's Jews,
Ladino, now on the point of extinction.

"After us, will there still be people who speak this language?" says
90-year-old Beraha.

"Surely, very few. It is possible that it will disappear."

Turkey now has the largest community of Jews in the Middle East outside of
Israel -- around 15,000 -- some of whom are belatedly fighting an uphill
battle to preserve the language before it disappears.

Ladino was passed down through the generations, peaking in popularity in
the 19th century, but increasingly fell out of use in favour of French
among Jews in the later Ottoman period.

Minority cultures and languages were deliberately suppressed when modern
Turkey was formed in the 1920s. "Citizens, speak Turkish!" was a rallying
cry of the new republic.

Beraha made a conscious decision to avoid teaching Ladino to her children,
wanting them to assimilate as much as possible. "We wanted them to
succeed," she says.

- Saving Ladino -

Turkey's neutrality during the Second World War spared Ladino-speakers the
decimation of Jewish communities in other parts of the region, but today
the remaining practitioners are mostly advanced in age.

According to UNESCO, more than 100,000 people still speak Ladino around the
world, mostly in Israel where tens of thousands of Jews from the former
Ottoman empire have immigrated to in recent decades.

Technically, 'Ladino' refers to a different language used by Spanish rabbis
to teach Hebrew texts, but it has become the common name for Judeo-Spanish,
which is also known as Judesmo and Spanyolit.


Mark Mandel

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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