Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Opening the mind, one animal noise at a time

Today in my third grade classes, the kids learned their song for the current unit.  Every unit in the textbook comes with a song that they learn on the second day of the unit.  It gets played on the TV at the start of class for the remainder of the unit.  The songs are catchy, and I often find myself humming or singing them later in the day.

The lyrics to this unit's song include, "I'm a frog. Ribbit, ribbit." and "I'm a zebra. Neigh, neigh."

When we got to that line, my co-teacher paused the song and had me teach the class what a frog and horse say in my country.  Until this moment, I had forgotten that animal sounds are different in different countries/languages.  I hadn't yet wondered what animal sounds are like in Korean.

When I first learned that different countries have different animal sounds, it really blew my mind.  I don't remember if it was in a Spanish class or not until I studied abroad in Spain, but I remember being surprised.  There's nothing novel about the concept; it makes perfect sense when you think about it.  Different languages have different sounds, thus people would mimic animal noises using sounds from their language.  But growing up in Wisconsin without much exposure to other cultures, this notion had never even occurred to me.  So the day I first learned about Spanish animal noises, my mind cracked open a sliver.

While living in a foreign culture you experience many small moments like this one.  The accumulation of these moments over time transforms your mind, creating a new reality.  What were once minor facts have now amounted to a notable shift in your perspective.  Your mind is much more open, yet looking back it's hard to pinpoint exactly when the change happened, let alone describe it.  That's because this change is gradual.  If you're not aware and paying attention, the transformation could be easy to miss.

I have no idea what my thoughts will be like after ten more months here in Korea, but I do know that today my mind was opened another sliver.

And when I got home after school, I googled Korean animal sounds to settle my curiosity.  I bet you're all wondering what a frog sounds like in Korean.  I'll give you a hint: it's nothing close to "ribbit".

Give up?  It's gaykul gaykul!  Check out the short movie clips below to hear a few more.  The Korean dog sound was also surprising to me - it's the first animal sound they make in the first video.

Start the first clip at :55 (the first minute is small talk).

 I like this video because there's a native Korean doing the animal sounds with his girlfriend from the Philippines, so you get to hear animal noises in two foreign countries.  I also like that they include the written word of each animal sound.


And here's the video from Eat Your Kimchi about Korean animal sounds.  Extra small talk in this one for entertainment value, so if you're in a time crunch just watch the first video.

Update 12/18/13: I just found this great animal sounds interactive on  Click the button below to hear animal sounds in different languages by clicking on that country's flag:
 Animal Sounds – Badge
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  1. You're right...we don't really think about this type of thing in other countries. Interesting post :)

  2. I wonder if Korean animals use a different sound to mimic humans than the sound American animals use...