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Talk to the Animals
Animal Sounds in German
 More of this Feature
• Tierlexikon
• German Animal Noises
• Animal Links
 
 Related Resources
• Bremer Stadtmusikanten
    Dual-Language Version
• Glossaries
 
In the German fairy tale Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten ("The Bremen Town Musicians"), a donkey, a dog, a rooster and a cat all somehow managed to talk to each other without an interpreter. Doctor Doolittle was able communicate with animals of all kinds. A pig, a horse or a lamb anywhere in the world supposedly makes the same sound. Shakespeare's "Well roared, lion!" comes out the same in German: Gut gebrüllt, Löwe! So you might think the world's animals all speak the same language. But you'd be wrong!

AnimalJust one of the Tiere
you'll find in our Tierlexikon.

FOTO: www.blinde-kuh.de

Alas, the animal kingdom turns out to be one huge babylonisches Sprachgewirr (Tower of Babel, der Turmbau zu Babel). As one moves around the globe, a frog does not always say "ribbit," a pig doesn't always say "oink" and a horse may or may not "whinny."

Of course it's not really the animals' fault. It is the human interpreters in various cultures who disagree about what a dog, a duck or even a mouse is "saying." If you examine some English animal noise interpretations closely, you have to wonder how they came about. Have you ever heard a dog actually bark "bow wow" or a rooster enunciate "cock-a-doodle-doo"? Only some serious cultural conditioning leads us to believe that's what they're saying. Ask a Spaniard, a Russian or a German what sound a rooster (der Hahn) makes, and you'll get almost the same answer from all of them—but it won't be very close to the English. To most Europeans a rooster's crow sounds like "quiquiriquí" (Spanish), "kukareku" (Russian) or "kikeriki" (German).

That's only the beginning. Even British and American frogs don't speak the same language! An American frog is supposed to be saying "ribbit" (larger ones only?). British frogs just croak. In fact most of the world's frogs croak a simple "kwak" (Dutch), "cra" (Italian), "kva" (Russian), "coa" (French) or "quak" (German). But a Japanese frog gets more creative with "kerokero," while Korean amphibians say "gae-gool" and Hungarians hear frogs going "bre-ke-ke"! While most of the world's cats and cows make about the same sounds ("miau" and "muh" in German), not many of the other animals have matching chirps, cries, shreeks, tweets or howls.

There are, of course, many more animals and animal noises, and we have listed most of them in our Tierlexikon. In that English-German glossary you'll find animals of all types—from ants and birds to snakes and zebras—with the sounds they make (if any). If you'd like to know more animal sounds in various languages, including German, I recommend Catherine Ball's "Sounds of the World's Animals" Web site (see our Animal Links page for that link and others), from which I got many of the foreign-language animal sounds above.

NEXT > Tierlexikon > Animal Noises


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