German interview with Michael Studemund-Halévy on Judaeo-Spanish

Friday, February 17, 2012

I found an interesting interview here in German yesterday on Judaeo-Spanish, an interview with a linguist who ended up learning it, in Romania of all places. The interview is quite simple yet informative, and I agree with him in a number of places.

His estimates of the number of speakers:

Weltweit rund 25.000 Menschen. In der Türkei gibt es 22.000 Sepharden, von denen aber nur 600 bis 800 Judenspanisch sprechen. In Bulgarien leben 3.000 Sepharden mit 250 bis 300 Sprechern des Judenspanischen. In Serbien zwei Sprecher, in Slowenien, Bosnien, Herzegowina, Makedonien und Griechenland nur noch wenige. Dafür aber in Paris, London, den USA - und in Israel.

There are around 25,000 speakers worldwide. There are 22,000 Sephardi in Turkey, of which only 600 - 800 speak Judaeo-Spanish. In Bulgaria there are 3,000 of which 250 to 300 speak the language. In Serbia there are two speakers, in Slovenia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Macedonia and Greece also a few. But there are also speakers in Paris, London, the US, and Israel.

Also, according to him:

- Nobody speaks it as a mother tongue anymore
- Yiddish is a good comparison for Judaeo-Spanish, as they are both to a certain extent late medieval variants of their respective mother languages plus a lot of Hebrew influence, spoken by a diaspora

Here's where I strongly agree with him:

Q: Sie haben Französisch, Portugiesisch, Spanisch, Rumänisch und Hebräisch gelernt. Warum?
A: Weil ich frei sein will, alles im Original zu lesen, was ich will.

Q: You have learned French, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian and Hebrew. Why?
A: Because I want to be free to read everything I want to in the original language.

I answer that question in a similar way: learning another language is the closest I can ever get to directly absorbing another person's thoughts and perspective (e.g. Leto in God Emperor of Dune). If I am doomed along with everybody else to never being able to fully understand even another single person, at least I can acquire a rough approximation, and language is one of the best ways to do it.

And:

Q: Welche Sprache sprechen Sie denn am liebsten?
A: Am stärksten emotional besetzt ist wohl das Portugiesische. Obwohl ich Französische objektiv besser spreche.

Q: Which language do you like to speak the most?
A: Emotionally I feel the strongest toward Portuguese. Although objectively I speak better French.

I feel more or less the same way, though just about Romance languages. Objectively I like the sound of European Portuguese and Romanian the best.


Anyhow, the interview is an interesting one. Here it is automatically translated into English as well.

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