Yak shaving while learning Ladino

You probably know what Yak shaving is. It is a cycle of recursive work.

I got sort-of sucked into it now as I am learning Ladino and I need to find a way out.

Speaking and listening

In order to make it easier to learn I need feedback. One way to get feedback is to talk to people. See if they understand what I try to say, and try to understand what they say. It is also called conversation. As it turns out there is even a Turkish word for it muabet meaning "a relaxed conversation, a dialogue which may not have a clear goal, but which creates or affirms social ties between those who engage in it."

Of course part of the goal of me learning Ladino is to have such conversations, but it is also part of how I learn. Unfortunately there are no Ladino speakers offering such sessions in Italki. Through various platforms and by asking various people I managed to reach a few people and now I have two conversation partners. An 80+ year old lady and a 20 year old woman. It is certainly interesting. I hope with more time I'll be able to get in touch with more people.

However, of course, in order to have fluent conversations I need to learn more.

Luckily there are plenty of YouTube videos with Ladino speakers that I can listen to.


I found that Utalk has a Ladino course. I love the voices and I love some of the exercises. Unfortunately most of the exercises focus on passive knowledge. There is some active speaking part, but actually that's a bit steep for my knowledge. I miss the textual feedback I got from Duolingo.

Reading and writing

There are a few books and newspapers in Ladino that I can read and there are some dictionaries, but they are much less comfortable than could be.

The dictionaries I found are all in pdf form or are missing a lot of words. The old version of Aki-Yerushalayim is in HTML but the new one is in PDF which is going to be harder to use.

In order to make it easier to learn reading I'd need a more interactive dictionary. Maybe I could even create a version of the newspapers where all the words are marked with their word-by-word translation. I actually already have part of the system. I have a web page where you can paste in some text and it will show the word-for-word translation. Unfortunately the dictionary behind it is small and probably has quite a few mistakes as it was written by myself.


I need to enlarge the dictionary that I created and I need to make it correct. I think some other people are also working on an interactive Ladino dictionary, but I don't seem to be able to get through them.

I need to write lots of examples sentences for the LibreLingo course (and the dictionary).

I need to practice the words and sentences I added to the course and the dictionary. Without that it is a bit pointless for myself. There are several issues with this.

  • LibreLingo has some issues on mobile phones and it isn't that good on desktop either. I could work on the latter, but for that I'd need to learn the technology that was used.
  • The LibreLingo Ladino course has no voice. In order to have voice I'll need the help of some real Ladino speakers.
  • The LibreLingo Ladino course is not (yet) organized well. I'd need to invest a lot of energy improving it. (Writing more sentences, organizing them etc. This needs some tools that I've started to write in JavaScript and Python.
  • I started to write alternative interfaces.
  • A command line interface in Python primarily for myself. That's not really useful for anyone. and it was very simplistic
  • Then I started to write one in Golang that could become a desktop and mobile application. It could be really useful and I could learn a lot during its development. Of course it is a lot of development work. Not only will it require learning more Go, I'll also have to implement the learning algorithms.
  • I thought I could offer my help to the editors of Aki-Yerushalyim to create a new website with all the old editions and also to include links to the word-by-word translation. Then I found out there is already a new web site on a different address where they use PDF only. It might look nicer, but it is less useful for someone who does not know the language fully. Maybe I can offer them help to use the real domain name and to have more than one versions of the content. One in PDF as they seem to like it. One in HTML so it will be indexed by the search engines and that could be - optionally - marked up with translation. There could be also a versions in epub and mobi formats to be read by various ebook readers.
  • Translating text-books for people learning Ladino. A while ago I thought I could take one or more of the A1-A2 level books I have in Spanish and I could translate them to Ladino. Then I could ask some Ladino-speaker to check the translation. That will give me the feedback. Then I could ask the original author of the book if we could publish it? I think I could still do the first two parts. Of course for that I'd need a better dictionary.
  • The way we write the dictionary in LibreLingo is a bit wasteful. Every word-pair I need to write twice. We started to discuss a new format. I should try to implement that and use that at least for my courses.

If I think of it this is not really Yak Shaving. It is more a circular dependency. However I think this could be resolved gradually. I just have to take it slowly. I need to find partners who come along the journey - other people learning Ladino - and I need to find people who will help me.

I need to decide which one of the things I do first that can help me make some improvements that can help with the others.

Published on 2022-01-15 by Gabor Szabo