Talking to the animals

by Ruth Griffiths

The mythical Dr. Doolittle thought he could talk to the animals:

“…think what it might mean,

if I could talk to the animals, just imagine it.

Chatting to a chimp in chimpanzee

Imagine talking to a tiger, chatting to a cheetah

What a neat achievement that would be.”

Most people talk to their pets and many believe that their pet understands them to some degree. Although we might not make up a new language to communicate with animals, like Dr. Doolittle did, we create words for animals sounds.

In kindergarten, the cat goes “meow” and across the hall in French immersion, the cat goes “miaou”. In fact, most languages have similar sounds for our beloved kittens: German “miau”, Italian “miao”, Swedish “mjau”, Russian “myau”, Vietnanmese “meo” and in Estonian, a nasal “nau.”

English is a language that freely borrows and assimilates words from many languages. For example an “English speaking” dog might go “bow wow”, but it could just as easily go “woof woof” like a Hebrew dog or even “ruff ruff.” (Perhaps it is a Scotty.) That French poodle goes “ouah ouah” and the Finish version is “vuff” or “rouf”. The German dog goes “wuff wuff” and his Spanish cousin says “guf guf”.

Sometimes the sounds animals make vary greatly from language to language. A North American pig goes “oink” but in Japanese it says “buu,” and in Swedish a pig makes a rather logical “noff” at the trough. In German a pig grunts “grunz.” In Albanian the chunky pig goes “hunk.”

Although English ducks merely quack, Danish ducks go “rap”. A French duck goes “coin” and a Turkish duck says “vak.”

Frogs have a bewildering variety of sounds: English “ribbit”, Turkish “vrak.” In German frogs croak “kwaak” , in Turkish it’s “vrak” and in Hungarian “brekeke.” Cbinese frogs go “guoguo”, Korean frogs say “gae-gool.” In Japan it’s “kerokero”  and Thai frogs say “op op” as they hop. A Polish frog calls “kum kum” and Italian frogs say “cra cra.”

We may not be able to talk to the animals, but they certainly seem to be talking to us.