cultural difference 20: animal sounds

May 8, 2010

Even animals in the US seem to speak a different language. 🙂

Our languages sometimes have different onomatopoeia (sound words) that imitate animal sounds. So if the rooster from A Rooster’s Job were a German rooster, he would say:

His American colleague would reply:

And you might have noticed that I said “he,” not “it.” In German, every noun, including animals, is either male or female or neuter. Cats have a female article (“die Katze”), while dogs or roosters are male (“der Hund,” “der Hahn”). So you’ll sometimes hear people say “she” even when talking about a male cat or “he” even when talking about a female dog.

Here’s a list of more animal sound differences:

animal English German
bee buzz summ-summ
bird cheep, chirp, tweet piep-piep
cat meow miau
crow caw kräh-kräh
cuckoo cuckoo kuckuck
donkey hee haw iaaah
dog woof woof, arf arf wuff wuff
dove coo guru guru
elephant baraag törrö
frog croak, ribbit quaak quaak
goat naa mäh
mouse eek fiep fiep
pig oink grunz
rooster cock-a-doodle-doo kikeriki






  1. Well, in English, a rooster is always male. Hen is the term for a female chicken. In English, the only time you might use “it” is if you use “chicken” in the sentence instead of one of the more specific terms.

    Though frequently the default is a chicken is cooked. *LOL*

    But the male/female assignment to nouns in non-English languages is an interesting topic.

  2. Lara,

    I guess it was too early for me this morning 🙂

    Of course roosters are always male, even in English. Some animals have a male and a female version in English.

    I’m grateful that English doesn’t have different articles for female and male nouns. I remember what a pain in the *** it was to learn the articles in French. Sometimes, the article can even change the meaning of the word, e.g., la tour vs. le tour.

    • Ah, yes, I remember high school French. I do appreciate the neutral function of English articles.

      This discussion reminds me to be specific with my nouns, and my verbs, reducing adverb and adjective clutter. But I’m sure that’s another post.

      • Yes, it actually is another post. But I find that in writing, most things are somehow connected.

  3. I didn’t even know a word like “onomatopoeia” existed 🙂

    • Neither did I! I had to stare at that word for some time to figure out how to pronounce it! 🙂

      • I have no idea how to pronounce it, but I can spell it 🙂

  4. Well, Thunder must be showing his German heritage then because he doesn’t woof or arf when he barks he wuffs! Despite the breed name: Great Dane, the breed originated in Germany.

    • Then maybe Thunder is bilingual 🙂

      In Germany, Great Danes are called “Deutsche [German] Dogge,” but I’ve heard “Dänische [Danish] Dogge” too.

  5. Well, in Russian all of those sounds above are yet different!!! If you’d like, I could write them for you, so you can use them for your Russian-speaking fans.

    • Oh, yes, please. I’d love to know what the rooster would say if he were Russian.

      • I’ll make it by the lines, just like you have it:
        bee – ж-ж-ж (English equivalent – zh)
        bird – чив-чив (tchiv-tchiv)
        cat – мяу (miaou)
        crow – кар (karr)
        cuckoo – ку-ку (koo-koo)
        donkey – и-а (eeee-aaah)
        dog – гав-гав (ghav-ghav)
        dove – гур-гур (ghoor-ghoor)
        elephant – у-у-у (uuuh)
        frog – ква-ква (kwaa-kwaa)
        goat – ме-е-е (meeh)
        mouse – пи-пи-пи (pee-pee-pee)
        pig – хрю-хрю (khriou-khriou)
        rooster – кукареку (kukarekoo)
        and a few more:
        sheep – беее (bаeh)
        duck – кря-кря (kria-kria and in Greek its “pa-pa” sound)

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