The Duck Says "Coin Coin" ...


The Duck Says "Coin Coin" ...
The Duck Says "Coin Coin" ...

Children learn things every day; our parents teach us constantly, especially in the first five years after we come into the world. Children learn about colors, shapes, numbers, and animals. Many of you probably learned about them from Sesame Street, learning videos, CDs, and things like that – but kids of a certain age turned to the See ‘n Say to learn about the sounds animals make. But what about youngsters from other countries? What it all comes down to, really, is that we as humans give animals their sounds, and they sound different to all of us.

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In the United States, children learn that cats say “meow,” and for the rest of our lives, that’s the sound you hear. Sometimes you hear a little “mew” from kittens, but for the most parts, cat sounds are defined as meows. That’s not the way it is in the rest of the world, though. The sounds are similar, but they’re all distinctly different. For instance, in Arabic, cats say “miaou miaou.” When speaking Mandarin Chinese, French, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish, you keep to sounds like “miao miao,” “miaou,” “miao,” and “miau,” respectively. In Hindi, you enunciate the sound like this: “mya:uN mya:uN,” similar to the “miyauv miyauv” and “myau” heard in the Turkish and Ukrainian languages.



What sound does a dog make when it barks? In English, it differs – you might hear a “ruff” or a “bark,” but generally you recognize it as a simple “bow wow.” In Arabic and Chinese, however, you would say that dogs go “haw haw” or “wang wang.” Dutch dogs go “woef,” Esperanto dogs say “boj,” and Croatian pups sound off with “vau-vau.” In Spanish, the noise sounds like “guau guau,” but in Swedish and Turkish, dogs vocalize with these sounds: “vov vov” and “hav hav.” Japanese dogs differ too; they may go “wanwan,” or they may be in a “kyankyan” kind of mood.



When you hear a duck, it sounds like it’s going “quack quack,” right? But how would a duck sound in another language? For the French, ducks say “coin coin,” and in Finish they say “kvaak kvaak.” German and Dutch ducks are also known for their quacks (or kwaks), but in Hebrew they go “ga ga ga,” and in Hindi they are known to exclaim “baak-baak-baak.” In the Ukraine, our fine feathered friends like to sound off with a loud “krya-krya.”



Ah, cows. This is the one animal which unites the world! In the United States and other English-speaking countries, you hear the lowing of cows as “moo,” and it’s really not that different in most places. In Arabic, the sound is elongated into a “mooooooo,” similar to the Croatian “muuu,” the Italian “muuuuuu,” the Japanese “moo,” the Portuguese “muuu,” the Spanish and Ukranian “muu,” and the “muu” heard in Russian and Swedish. Other variations – the Finnish “ammuu,” the French “meuh,” and the German “mmuuh” – are likewise similar. In Norwegian, however, cows say “mø,” while in Dutch, they say “beoh,” in Hindi they go “ba:N ba:N,” and in Hungarian, they say “bu.”

It makes you wonder about things like birdsong and bees buzzing. Cows don’t bu or moo unless we say so; the language of cats depends on our culture, language, and even our heritage. How do you hear different animals? Polyglots, do you describe animal sounds differently when speaking another language? Let us know if you think of any other examples!

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I looked this page up because I was reminiscing about a conversation I had with a Japanese exchange student, well, more years ago than I like to think about. Anyway, I don't recall what was said regarding other animals, although I am quite sure cats were discussed. But, regarding dogs, he told me they said "wong wong," at least spelled phonetically. I suppose "wanwan" is close enough. In any event, I think the subject is fascinating, the more so because it is not something most people ever think about.

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