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Local professor teaches free course on endangered language during quarantine

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(WBNG) -- You may confuse Ladino for Spanish at first, but it's a language of it's own with Jewish and Spanish origins.

"The language was traditionally written in Hebrew-based characters. To your ear, you might say, 'This sounds somewhat familiar, but not exactly my Spanish.' If you're looking at it in writing, you'd say, 'There's no way this is any type of Spanish,'" said Bryan Kirschen, Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics at Binghamton University.

If you've never heard of Ladino, you're not alone. Kirschen says it's an endangered language, and many native speakers are reaching elderly ages. So, with plenty of time in quarantine, Kirschen decided to pass on some of his knowledge about the language.

"If I'm going to research something and teach something, then this is really a bridge between cultures and languages," said Kirschen.

Kirschen partnered with the Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America, which hosts free digital courses. He developed a five-week course, thinking it would generate a little interest. The response, was much more.

"Nearly 500 unique users logged on. Even though it was a beginner's course, there were people who did speak the language and they wanted to see what was going on, and they wanted to see the interest in their language," said Kirschen.

Kirschen says people from Canada, Argentina, Turkey, Japan, and other countries tuned in to learn. Not only was Kirschen teaching a new language, but a new culture and perspective.

"There's not just one way of being Latino, there's not just one way of being Jewish. There's not one way to speak, whether it's English, Spanish, or this Judeo-Spanish I'm talking about."

Katie Jones

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