The following dilemma is tormenting petite anglaise, an English 30-something living in Paris : should she teach her daughter animal noises in English or in French? It is a tricky issue, although I’m sure the little girl will grow up to be bilingual and will converse with French and English-speaking animals alike without any problem.

This difference in onomatopoeias according to languages illustrates perfectly the fact that language shapes our understanding of the world. Same animals, same noises, but we hear them differently. Here are a few examples for English and French; for a more complete guide on English/French onomatopoeias, click here.

 

French

English

dog

ouah! ouah! (wah! wah!)

woof! woof!

cat

miaou (meeaahoo)

meow

cockerel

cocorico (kokoreeko)

cockadoodledoo

turkey

glou glou (gloo gloo)

gobble gobble

cow

meuh (myrrh)

moo

bird

cui cui (kwee kwee)

tweet tweet

duck

coin coin (kwan kwan)

quack quack

pig

groin goin (grwan grwan)

oink oink

donkey

hi-han (ee-an)

hee-haw

It also reminds me that someone once told me that in the English version of the Tintin comics, Snowball’s bark isn’t translated (he goes ouah! ouah!). I wonder whether that was a conscious decision from the translator or whether he or she didn’t realise that animals don’t sound the same in English and in French.