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.
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.
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.