Tag Archives: ladino

¡Feliz Janucá! : Spanish Hanukkah vocabulary

I think non-Jews (like me) have a tendency to think Hanukkah is a more important holiday than it actually is, mostly because it falls so close to Christmas. However, it is festive and fun, and it’s going on right now. So what better reason is there to learn some new vocabulary in Spanish? ¡Vamos!

(There’s a good short description of the story of Hanukkah en español aquí and in English here.)

Festival of Lights : la fiesta de las luces

Greek kings : los reyes griegos :: Maccabees : los macabeos :: victory : la victoria

menorah : la menorá/la menorah :: candles : las velas

oil : el aceite :: eight days : ocho días

(“Ocho Kandelikas”/”Eight Little Candles” : Ladino Hanukkah song)

songs : las canciones :: games : los juegos

latke (potato pancake) : la latke (la tortilla de papas/patatas)

gelt (chocolate money) : el dinero de chocolate

sufganiot (jelly donut) : el buñuelo de jalea

dreidel : el dreidel (in Mexico, the Jewish community uses a toma todo)

La canción de dreidel
Tengo un pequeño dreidel que de barro fabriqué,
cuando esté seco y listo, puedo jugar con él.
Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel que de barro fabriqué,
dreidel, dreidel, dreidel con dreidel jugaré.

The Dreidel Song
I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay.
When it’s dry and ready, then dreidel I shall play.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, then dreidel I shall play.

Ladino : Spanish’s Jewish Cousin

Most folks have heard of Yiddish, a language that developed in the Ashkenazi community of Central Europe during the Middle Ages. However, many people don’t realize that Yiddish is actually closely related to German. In fact, it originates from a Medieval form of that language, only written in Hebrew letters. Similarly, Spanish has its own language cousin in the Jewish world, Ladino or Judaeo-Spanish, which is spoken by the Sephardic descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella.

A collage of some important Sephardic Jews. Maimonides is in the top left and Hank Azaria is in the bottom right. Click through for the full list.

While Yiddish grew out of Medieval German, it also has linguistic influences from Hebrew and Aramaic. In a similar way, Ladino developed from a Medieval form of Spanish but also shares bits of vocabulary and grammar with Hebrew, Arabic, and even Turkish. For those who know any Spanish, I think you’ll find it sounds familiar…and a little exotic at the same time.

(Grasyas, ceniboy, for posting this and other great Ladino videos.)

Ladino is still spoken by small communities in Israel, Turkey, Greece, and even the United States, but it is in danger of going extinct. Most speakers use it as a second language, and older generations are not passing it along to their children and grandchildren in great numbers. Nonetheless, here’s hoping for a renaissance.