(Art work on this blog is copyrighted.)
In the US and elsewhere some universities are now offering classes in Ladino. This is a marvelous thing and arises out of work by people like Mathilda Koen-Sarano who created texts books for just this purpose.
But this fall, 2013, classes in Telugu are being offered to small children by the SouthAsian community, even though
1. Telugu as a language, unlike Ladino, is not under threat of losing its native speakers.
2. And unlike Ladino, there are millions of Telugu speakers in India and world wide.
Yet starting on September 15, 2013, classes in Telugubadi are being offered to Indian (South Asian) children living in the United States. What’s more, those classes are not inexpensive.
For the kids ages 6 and above:
1. Interested parents have to register/enroll their kids online … before Sept 15, 2013, with a fee of $350.00 ….
2. All enrolled kids have to take an entrance exam on September 15th, which will place them in the respective classes of Pravesam and Prasunam after the evaluation.
The effort to have the children be fluent and proficient in Telugu, even its script, is taken quite seriously, because without such an effort, children of Telugu-speaking parents would lose much of the language and be poor speakers and perhaps non-readers of it. Their own children would be less capable.
Here is an example of the work the children are doing.
How does this apply to Ladino?
Those teaching Telugu begin with this statement:
The greatest and most powerful gift a parent can give their children is to pass their language and culture. Literacy in the mother tongue strengthens cultural identity and heritage. The mother tongue plays a very important role in developing thoughts, shaping experiences, exploring customs, and articulating values.
That statement applies to Ladino as strongly as it does Telugu, if not more so since Ladino is a language carrying traces of multiple cultures and other languages within it, because of the history of the Sephardim’s expulsion from Spain. Ladino is the essence of Sephardic culture (as is true of other languages, just as the Telugu speakers recognize), yet it has been swamped in the US by a corporate, religious and ethnic culture none of which belong to Sephardic Jews. That not-of-their-own culture is what Sephardic children are being brought up in, with English distinct from their own history and carrying none of its humor, values, wisdom.
So the question is why Sephardic Jews are waiting til college to take classes in Ladino, when Sephardic parents could be requesting classes in Ladino for their young children.
The next posts will discuss how this is not only possible but why it may be important to Sephardic parents who don’t even speak Ladino themselves.
To give a sense of the possibilities, here is a small child, only 5 years old, singing in Ladino.