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USAGE BY COUNTRY (OFFICIAL LANGUAGE)Estimated number of home speakers in 2010: Israel (60, 000), Turkey (6,000), and fewer in Greece, Bulgaria, France, Spain, United States, Latin America, and other countries throughout the world where Sephardic Jews live.
Ladino is a Spanish-based language spoken by the Sephardic Jews of the former Ottoman Empire. “Sephardic” derives from Sepharad, the Hebrew word for Spain, and refers to the Iberic origin of these Jews who, having been expelled en masse from Spainin 1492 and from Portugal shortly thereafter, were dispersed throughout Europe and the Mediterranean basin. Ladino developed as a distinct Jewish language in the Ottoman Empire, where most of the Sephardic exiles (about 200,000) had settled. Though basically Medieval Castillian, with influence of other Medieval Iberic languages (such as Aragonese, Catalan, and Portuguese) it incorporates many words and phrases from Hebrew, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, and other languages with which it came in contact. (A parallel Judeo-Spanish dialect, Haketia, developed in North Africa with much Arabic influence.) Its grammatical structure is close to that of Spanish, and the language can be understood by Spanish speakers if the foreign loan words are kept to a minimum.
Until the twentieth century Ladino was written in Hebrew letters, mostly in the Rashi type, both in print and in cursive writing. It has been written in Latin characters since the advent of Western education, and, in Turkey, since the alphabet reform of 1928 (which instituted the Latin alphabet for Turkish.) The spelling system preferred by most native speakers today, and used in this translation, was established 30 years ago by the Israeli all-Ladino cultural review “Aki Yerushalayim”, and is, in essence, the phonetic transcription in Latin letters of the former writing in Hebraic letters.