Ladino: Saved by Digital

uTalk Ladino voice artists Benni Aguado and Rachel Bortnick take a break from recording.

Supporters of Ladino, an endangered Jewish language, have teamed up across the globe in a new bid to help save it from extinction by recording the language on an app.

This latest bid to preserve and promote Ladino, also called Judeo-Spanish or Judesmo, is the result of a collaboration between the US-based digital archive Ladino 21 and UK-based language learning company uTalk.

The story of Ladino began with the Sephardic Jews who lived in what we now call Spain and Portugal until the 1490s when they were ordered to leave unless they converted to Christianity.

Many of the exiled Jews then settled in the Ottoman Empire and the Jewish language they spoke there has since been called Ladino. Today it is chiefly spoken by descendants of Sephardic Jews as well as supporters of the language.

Ladino is strongly based on medieval Castilian Spanish but also includes influences from other languages it came into contact with, including Turkish, Greek and Hebrew.

Today there are Ladino speakers worldwide but the larger communities are in Israel, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, USA, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile.

uTalk Ladino, which officially launched Dec 6th, features more than 2,500 words and phrases all spoken by Rachel and Benni who were brought up in Ladino-speaking families.

Rachel, 81, who grew up in Izmir, Turkey, tells eJP: “When I was growing up everyone around me spoke Ladino, my family, my neighbours and the local shopkeepers.

“I never thought for a moment that the language might one day disappear. For me and thousands of others it’s heart-breaking because the language is part of who we are, our memories and culture,” she adds.

Ladino 21 is a digital archive which documents, preserves and celebrates the Ladino language and culture of the Sephardic Jews in the 21st century. For info contact: Twitter: @LadinoXXI

uTalk makes language learning apps in more than 140+ languages and its award-winning formula has been used in more than 100 countries worldwide by 30m+ customers. Twitter: @uTalk