What are the main differences between Spanish and Ladino?

I thought I would be able to hear the difference in Ladino podcasts, but I don't. Both languages sound the same.

  • 1
    I am always questioning linguistic patterns and choices.I live in Eilat Israel where I am called upon constantly to use and enjoy my linguistic skills! Today---at a small local bus stop, a man about 60 asked me in Hebrew if I was from Argentina.He heard me speaking Spanish to a friend,I replied "yes".He offered that being from Turkey he spoke Spanish. I said,"No,you spoke Ladino.I was there in Turkey in a big synagogue,I heard Ladino.He smiled. Ladino sounds a bit choppy to me---but fun to decipher!
    – user13317
    Aug 1, 2016 at 11:14

3 Answers 3


Spanish is the old Castilian language, a Romance one, related to Portuguese, Galician and Catalan, with influences from Arabic and French, and which has evolved naturally since, spoken nowadays in Spain, Hispanic America (including South of USA), Equatorial Guinea and Philippines.

Ladino is the same old Castilian language, also romance, also related to Portuguese, Galician and Catalan, with the same influences from Arabic but less influence from French, which has not evolved since Ferdinand and Isabella expelled jews from Spain in 1492, spoken nowadays by sephardi jews (they called Spain as Sefarad, hence the name they give to theirselves).

So yes, the answer from Jaime Cruz Triana is correct in that Ladino is ancient Spanish, and the historic reason is that Jews expelled in 1492 retained their language.

  • 7
    It has evolved somehow, Ladino spoken in Turkey/Middle East has adopted many words from Turkish.
    – JoulSauron
    Jul 3, 2014 at 8:44
  • @JoulSauron True. I referred to the same evolution as Spanish
    – Envite
    Jul 3, 2014 at 8:46
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    deStrangis: As a resident of Israel I can tell you that some people in Israel do speak Ladino (my uneducated guess is an order of magnitude of 50,000 speakers, almost all of them also speak Hebrew), yet - and like other jewish dialects such as Yiddish - one can not compare its contemporary status to the situation before the Holocaust, when it was spoken by a large fraction of the non-ashkenazi jews and was used in everyday-life. Most of the current speakers are elderly people who were born in Ladino-speaking communities such as the Balcan or Turkey and later immigrated to Israel, and it is ver Jul 8, 2014 at 16:01
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    @deStrangis There are printed and online newspapers, such as Aki Yerushalayim. There is Wikipedia in Ladino. Radio Exterior de España has a weekly show in Ladino, you can listen to past shows.
    – JoulSauron
    Jul 9, 2014 at 8:44
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    @Envite: On the SE network, we encourage answers to be well-referenced. If you feel Wikipedia provides sufficient reference material for your answer, I encourage you to add that to your answer, not simply as a comment.
    – Flimzy
    Jul 14, 2014 at 16:27

I am a Spanish speaker and I understand 100% of spoken Ladino. Written Ladino takes a little thought, but I can also understand it 100%.

I am Colombian and quite frankly I have a harder time understanding Caribbean dialects than I have understanding Ladino podcasts. My impression is that the division as two languages is mostly political... I think you can understand why.

But if I had to look at the two languages purely from a linguistic perspective, I'd classify them as dialects of the same language. (disclaimer: I'm not a professional linguist, just interested in the subject)


Spanish and Ladino are indeed very closely related languages. However, there are some prominent phonetic and grammatical differences:

Feature Ladino Old
Andalusian /
Portuguese Castilian
retention of the sibilants /ʃ/ and /ʒ/
(e.g. baxo /ʃ/, mujer /ʒ/)
voicing distinction between "s/ç" and "z"
(e.g. korasón /s/, dezir /z/)
distinction between /b/ and /v/
word initial latinate /f/
(e.g. fija, favla)
distinction in conjugation of 1st person plural present and preterite -ar verbs
elision of word terminal /s/
word-terminal and /-k/ preceding /s/ often pronounced [ʃ]
word initial /nwe-/ often pronounced /mwe-/
(e.g. muestro, muevo)
lack of usted
variation of hebrew plural suffixes /-im/, /-ot/
(e.g. ladrones, ladronim)
gender-marking of morphologically neutral words
(e.g. grande/granda, voz -> vozas)

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judaeo-Spanish

Some examples of Ladino speech:
- WikiTongues: Jack Speaking Ladino
- Esther Levi

  • This chart is missing several things: Old Spanish, Castilian Spanish and (EUropean) Portuguese all conjugate 2nd person plural verbs distinctly. Similarly, (European) Portuguese distinguishes present preterite -ar verbs: hoje nós nadamos, ontem nós nadámos (cf Asturian/MIrandese nadamos / nademos) Feb 14, 2021 at 0:26
  • European Portuguese in the north (and Mirandese) also distinguish the full complement of sibilants, and all Portuguese except for the extreme north/ northeast distinguish b/v Feb 14, 2021 at 0:28
  • @user0721090601 thanks - I quickly changed this from a pairwise comparison without checking it was exhaustive. Can't remember what I intended by the last one (wasn't clearly phrased), so I removed it. Hope it's more accurate now!
    – jacobo
    Feb 14, 2021 at 12:00

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