Language Planning for the “Other Jewish Languages” in Israel
An Agenda for the Beginning of the 21st Century
Although small budgets have recently been allocated to governmentally controlled “Authorities” for Yiddish and Ladino, both of these languages (as well as Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Persian) suffer from a serious lack of well-prioritized efforts in accord with their specific language-planning needs. The ultra-orthodox Yiddish-speaking community is the only one among all of the “Jewish languages other than Hebrew” which has both a continually growing number of young speakers as well as demographically concentrated residential areas with neighborhood institutions (schools, synagogues) utilizing their own vernacular. The secular Yiddish sector is much richer in modern language-related institutional infrastructure and intelligentsia but is almost in total disarray insofar as demographic concentration of young speakers, schools with adequate instructional time and young institutional leadership are concerned. Ladino is even worse off, with respect to speakers and infrastructure, but has recently moved ahead noticeably due to prominent younger leaders with a rich agenda of important goals and projects. Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Persian both suffer from a dire lack of language-focused intellectuals as well as the absence of a dominant spoken or written variety and are still regarded by their own speakers as dialects lacking in autonomy. None of the latter three languages/varieties has either a periodical press or book-production and the last two lack even courses, teachers or pedagogic materials appropriate for young students. The current insufficiency of funds and less-than-informed efforts on behalf of governmental authorities may lead to the early demise of most “other Jewish languages than Hebrew” in Israel, with the distinct exception of Yiddish in ultra-Orthodox circles.
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