• 3rd October, 2012

Onomatowhat?!

People speak, right? So, surely animals can communicate too, can’t they?

Obviously they don’t speak the same languages as us, or rather we don’t speak the same as them and so to represent their sounds we humans use something called onomatopoeia. This long word means naming a sound, usually made by animals or inanimate objects, by trying to imitate it.

In the same way that languages greatly differ from country to country, the way we interpret these sounds also differs; a duck’s quack doesn’t sound the same in English as it does in, say, Russian.

“So, what does a Russian quack sound like?” I hear you say. Welcome to our world of zoological onomatopoeia!


“If it looks like a duck, walks, quacks and flies like a duck – then it is a duck.” – An English duck says quack, quack, whereas a French duck says coin, coin and a Russian duck has even been heard to say krya, krya!


”Cat got your tongue?” – Despite their refined and sophisticated appearance, Cat is a rather common language spoke almost identically  in German, Italian, English, Brazilian to name but a few. The most radical interpretation of the meow, meow we are accustomed to comes from Japan, where their 猫 or cats say nyah, nyah.

”A pig in a poke.” – These stout, snouted beasts are incredibly multilingual! Yes we may hear an oink, oink in England and Germany but go further afield to South Korea and you will hear kouro, kouro kuh, or to Japan for a buhi, buhi.

“A little bird told me…” – Nowadays with our new-fangled technologies we live in a permanent state of connection with the rest of the world; social media is an integral part of our lives, but have you stopped to think about Twitter?


Yes! Twitter uses the clever onomatopoeia of an English bird: tweet, tweet!

(We are unsure as yet as to whether this will catch on in the international avian community.)

For those of you who want to know more, take a look at this great ESL page which will assault your eyes and ears with the sights and sounds of animals from around the world.

As usual, don’t forget to follow us as we tweet, tweet on Twitter, like us on Facebook and check out the Lingualia Web for the latest news and a free Spanish and English level test.

Posted in : Culture
Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply


six + 1 =