Hebrew & Other Jewish Languages

The original language of the Jewish people is, of course, Hebrew, the language in which the Jewish Bible is written. Hebrew is an unique language in that it is the only ancient language which died out as an everyday language (although it remained the language of Jewish prayer and religious study) and was later successfully revived; today Hebrew is one of the official languages of the state of Israel and is spoken by millions of people in everyday life. This remarkable achievement was thanks largely to the efforts of Eliezer Ben Yehuda.

But, over time, Jews came to speak other languages, especially languages used in the regions where they lived. Some of these languages developed forms particularly associated with Jews; for example, in medieval times some Jews wrote in Arabic (the dominant language of the countries where they lived), but wrote it using the Hebrew alphabet so that other Jews would be able to read it. The ‘Jewish’ languages of Yiddish and Ladino derived from German and Spanish respectively when Jews left those countries and travelled to new lands taking their previous language with them; these languages then continued to grow and develop in the new homelands of the Jews who spoke them.

For more specific information, please click one of the links below.

The Hebrew Language
Languages Other Than Hebrew