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Monday, February 13, 2012

Think Globally, Quack Locally

When I was a kid, my parents got the Reader's Digest, and I remember reading in it an anecdote sent in by a contributor about how she was at the park and saw a man feeding squirrels, and talking to the squirrels in Spanish, and how she thought to herself, "Well, that's silly. Squirrels don't understand Spanish. They understand English."

Given that I had been exposed to this idea in my youth, you would think that when I moved to Japan I wouldn't have been surprised to discover that onomatopoeic words used to describe animal noises here can often be different from the ones I grew up using. And yet I was surprised. That's how deep my English-centrism ran (and unfortunately still tends to run). I actually had just never thought that deeply about it, I suppose.

Here's a great site that shows animal noises spoken by children from all over the world, Click on the animal you want to hear, and a screen will pop up with the animal colored in with the flags of countries they have samples from. Enjoy the sound of the rooster from Korea, for example, or the snake from Pakistan. There are also a few transportation noises available. If you have kids of the right age, this site welcomes their submissions as well.

Another similar site is The Quack-Project. Enjoy.

1 comment:

Jessica Goodfellow said...

I guess I should mention my kids' experience too, since they are bilingual and biliterate. I was their primary caregiver when they were young, and at that time they lived in the States, so they first learned the English onomatopoeia for animal and transportation sounds. When they were almost 4 and almost 2, we moved to Japan, and the older one started preschool while the younger one went to organized playgroups, in order to introduce them to Japanese. They both learned Japanese animal sounds this way. My older sone still tends to refer to animal noises in English, while the younger one will generally cite them in Japanese (although they both know the sounds in both languages). They have slight preferences for those respective languages in general, as it happens.