Does your dog bark in French yet?

You know that you have started to think in French when you have heard your dog bark ‘ouaf-ouaf’

20 October 2014

YOU know that you have started to think in French when you have heard your dog bark ‘ouaf-ouaf’.

It would make sense that onomatopoeic words in English and French would be said in the same way, but it seems that we hear things very differently.

French and English animals, for example, might make the same noises but we do not hear them in the same way.

In France, a duck will say ‘coin-coin’ rather than quack quack, says Laurent Girerd, author and editor at Larousse.

Instead of a moo, in French a cow says ‘meuh’ and a little bird will ‘cui-cui’ rather than tweet.

Where in the English language a frog is said to ‘ribbit’, a grenouille will always coa-coa, says Mr Girerd.

We think a rooster says ‘cocka-doodle-doo’, but if you were French you would hear ‘cocorico.’ Meanwhile a hen does not cluck, it says ‘cotcot.’

On the other hand, a cat says ‘miaou’, much like our English ‘meow’, and a bee also makes the sound bzz.

Intriguingly we even have different ways to voice reactions to fundamental of reacting to basic bodily functions.

In English we think we instinctively shout ‘ouch’ when we get hurt, but a French person tumbling down a flight or stairs would wail ‘aie’.

Feeling peckish? An English child would offer an appreciative ‘yum-yum’ to a delicious meal, whereas a French child would say ‘miam-miam’ when tucking into its croissant.

Meanwhile, a sneeze is said ‘achoo’ in English but in French it is said atchoum, with an m. Mr Girerd was unable to explain these differences in linguistic interpretation.

Do you know any other sounds which are interpreted in a different way in French? Please email details to news[at]

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