We all know that a pig says “oink” and a cow says “moo,” right?
Well, that’s true if you live in North America and you speak English.
But what about in other countries and languages? Do animals say different things?
It turns out, animal sounds are very different depending on the language and the country.
For instance, while in English we would say that cats go “meow,” in Japanese they go “nyan.” And while in English a chicken goes “cluck cluck,” in German it goes “tok tok” and in Italian it goes “coccodé” and in Spanish it goes “caca-raca.”
Can animals speak more than one language? Of course not. But these are the ways that people who speak other languages interpret the same animal sounds and write them down.
Derek Abbott is a researcher working at the University of Adelaide in Australia. He has come up with what he says is the world’s biggest multilingual (more than one language) list of animal sounds.
Here are some more:
English: quack quack
French: coin coin
English: gobble gobble
French and Greek: glou glou
Turkish: glu glu
German: sum sum
Japanese: boon boon
Greek: zoum zoum
The sounds are also different depending on what the animal is doing. For instance, in English a cat can “meow” or it can “purr.” A small dog barking might say “yap yap” whereas a bigger dog might say “woof” or “bow wow.”
Abbott has also compiled lists of what we say to animals (for instance, to a horse in English we may say “giddyup” whereas in Urdu they may tell a horse “tazebahaga” to get it to go faster.)
Unfortunately, Abbott’s list does not address the question, “what does the fox say?” (as asked by the recent popular song by Ylvis, “The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?)”).
Here are Abbott’s lists.
Want to know what the fox says? This music video has some ideas. (This link is to the video on YouTube.)
Here’s our TKN story on the viral “fox” music video.
By Kathleen Tilly
Have you ever thought about what animals ‘say’ in languages other than your own?
Why do you think Abbott chose to write this list?
Why do you think it is important to think about how different countries, people and languages understand the same thing?
Reading Prompt: Text Features
This article is not written in standard paragraphs. Instead, when the journalist talks about the sounds in different languages, she basically writes in lists. Why do you think she chose to organize the article in this way?
Primary & Junior
Identify a variety of text features and explain how they help readers understand texts (OME, Reading: 2.3).
Language Feature: Onomatopoeia
An onomatopoeia is when a sound is written out as a word. “Meow” and “oink” are two examples of onomatopoeias.
Onomatopoeias are not just written for animal sounds; they are for other sounds as well.
Write a word (onomatopoeia) for the following sounds:
1. a tap dripping
2. a car stopping quickly
3. an ice cream falling on the sidewalk
4. a large rock being thrown into a lake
5. a skipping rope swinging
6. popcorn being eaten at the movies