See stories and progress from The CENTENNIAL Campaign for
Dedicated to researching and teaching the languages, literatures and cultures of the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking worlds.
A visionary, Professor Bryan Kirschen (Ph.D. ’15) is on a mission. He’s trying to save a language on the verge of extinction: Judeo-Spanish, the language developed by the 15th-century Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal as a result of the Inquisition during the Middle Ages. Also known as Ladino, it’s now spoken by only a few hundred people in the United States.
Prof. Kirschen is reviving this rare mix of Spanish, Hebrew, Aramaic, Turkish and Arabic. He’s taught classes and workshops at UCLA and the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, and is now at SUNY Binghamton. He also co-founded ucLADINO, an organization that aims “to spread knowledge of the Judeo-Spanish language(s) to undergraduate and graduate students here at UCLA and across campuses countrywide.” Focusing on the special role of Judeo-Spanish during the Holocaust, Prof. Kirschen has even co-directed a documentary called Saved by Language, the true-life tale of a Bosnian boy who escaped the Nazi death camps because he spoke this endangered language.
Like Prof. Kirschen, many faculty members at the UCLA Department of Spanish and Portuguese are doing research at the cutting edge of their various disciplines. The 17 tenured faculty members span the fields of Iberian and Latin American literature, culture and linguistics, from the medieval period to contemporary literature and film. Our faculty features signal strengths in other disciplines and interdisciplinary approaches, including multimedia, history, art history and comparative literature. Students can even study indigenous or regional languages, such as Quechua and Catalan, and further their study of these languages through immersive study abroad programs. Offering an array of scholarly and cultural events, lectures and symposia throughout the academic year, the department’s mission is to educate the next generation of teachers, scholars and citizens within the broader context of Los Angeles, the state of California and the nation.
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