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(Inspired by this comment).

Does halacha permit Jews to speak languages other than Hebrew? Bedieved? Lechatchilah?

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@Vram, there's a difference between "many do X while many others challenge it" and a centuries-old worldwide practice of speaking non-Hebrew languages without, so far as I know, challenge. We even do some of our liturgy in Aramaic (the vernacular of the time)... –  Monica Cellio May 20 '12 at 22:12
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possible duplicate of Is there a Mitzva to speak Loshon Kodesh? –  Shmuel Brin May 20 '12 at 22:33
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also see judaism.stackexchange.com/a/13290/732 if one is permitted to speak Hebrew –  Shmuel Brin May 20 '12 at 22:34
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@AdamMosheh: that statement of Reish Lakish has nothing to do with this. First of all, he says nothing about language. Second, the Jews of Eretz Yisrael spoke Aramaic too - just a different dialect (see Rashi to Sotah 49b, ד"ה לשון סורסי, and Tosafos to Bava Kamma 83a with the same catchword); indeed, the first few words of Reish Lakish's outburst (א-להא סנינא לכו) are in Aramaic. He's talking about the fact that, centuries earlier, Babylonian Jewry failed to come to Eretz Yisrael to build the second Beis Hamikdash, and thereby prevented it from being the final, permanent one. –  Alex May 21 '12 at 0:21
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@AdamMosheh, my downvote is because the question offers no support for the idea that this might be a halachic problem, in the presence of overwhelming practice to the contrary. If you bring a reason to suspect a halachic problem I'll remove my downvote. (As for why I answered if I think it's a bad question: because the comment thread was getting long and I see value in rolling it up into one post. Plus, you might improve the question.) –  Monica Cellio May 21 '12 at 3:51
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1 Answer 1

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Evidence against there being such a prohibition includes:

  • Speaking (and writing) other languages has been widespread practice for more than two millennia. While it's hard to prove a negative, I've so far never heard of an objection to this.

  • Some prayers were specifically written in Aramaic, the language of the people, rather than Hebrew.

  • As pointed out by @minhag, the talmud is mostly written in Aramaic, Rambam wrote in Arabic, and Yeminite Jews recite Onkelos as part of their t'filah. Also, Rashi was clearly fluent in French.

  • How would Yiddish and Ladino have gotten off the ground if they were forbidden? These languages were formed by German- and Spanish-speaking Jews, respectively.

  • No source, but I have heard of people objecting to using Hebrew for purposes other than prayer, which would seem to be a problem if the halacha required Hebrew.

  • We went for something close to two-thousand years with Hebrew not being a living language, yet there were Jews all that time.

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+1 but I don't see the difference between your first and last points. –  Double AA May 21 '12 at 2:01
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@DoubleAA, the first is that we spoke other languages, and the last is that we didn't speak Hebrew for a long time. I can see what you mean that they go together; I meant to approach the question from both directions. –  Monica Cellio May 21 '12 at 3:47
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