The Roma and the Jews–Language

Romani is a geographically and linguistically dispersed common language of the Roma people that has been in use in Europe since the middle ages. The language–or, more accurately, the related set of languages–originated in central and northern India as an “Indo-Aryan” relative of Hindi but spread westward into Europe as the Roma people spread. Romani isn’t the primary language in any one country but it is a minority language in many, where it has adapted in local cultural and national contexts to develop into a number of related but divergent dialects. There is an international effort underway to standardize Romani, codifying it in a way that will Romani everywhere to use it as a common form of communication as well as a mark of cultural pride.Â

More information:
About Romani | Important Romani words and phrases, like “Ajsi bori lachi: xal bilondo, phenel londo” which means “Such a daughter-in-law is good who eats unsalted food and says it is salted” | Some Romani riddles such as “What do all of us do at the same moment?” (answer: “we are getting old”) | Standardizing Romani: “Language Rights as Human Rights”

Yiddish is a thousand year old hybrid of medieval German and Hebrew. At the height of its popularity about a century ago it was the primary language of 11 million of the world’s 18 million Jews, and almost the exclusive language of Azhkenazic Jews. (Sephardic Jews, who hailed from Spain, Portugal, the Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East, were more likely to speak Ladino, a mix of medieval Spanish and Hebrew.) Yiddish is heartfelt and innately descriptive, and existed mainly as a spoken language even though it also naturally lent itself to use in literature, music and theater. As Jews assimilated into higher levels of German society in the 1700s and 1800s, Yiddish developed the reputation of being a lower-class language, one that only belonged in the poverty-stricken shtetl. Millions of those Jews perished in World World II during the Holocaust, and the practice of speaking Yiddish as a first language essentially perished with them. Today’s enthusiastic Yiddish
revival aims to not only inspire appreciation of the language but to bring it back to use as a living, developing form of expression that complements to whatever local languages Jews currently speak.Â

More information:
About Yiddish | 40 Yiddish words you should know such as “nosh” (to nibble), “plotz” (to explode) and “oy vey!” which means, “oy vey!” | Yiddish literature | Yiddish music | Yiddish theater | About today’s Yiddish revival

In class we’re going to say hello in Romani and goodbye in Yiddish:

Hello in Romani: Latcho dives
Goodbye in Yiddish: Zayt gesunt

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