Posts Tagged ‘Kyrgyz’

Around the world, new parents are busy perfecting their animal noises.  These animals will become some of the main characters in their child’s formative years, serving as a shared language for barnyard songs and interactive story time.

The cuteness factor also contributes to the appeal of little kids imitating farm animals.  Cuing up a demonstration of your little tyke’s comprehension skills is endearing.  In the baby-talk vernacular, we perceive these animal noises as universal sounds and treat them pretty matter-of-factly.

But the bark of a French dog and the exhausted snort of a Russian horse are nuanced.  In reality, adults interpret animal noises according to the sounds and intonations of their native language – some more convincing than others.  Take a look at this Sesame Street clip that teaches what dogs say in Korea, South Africa and Romania:

Professor Derek Abbott, of the University of Adelaide, has amassed a collection of common animal sounds in 17 different languages.  His animal sounds project also charts animal commands and popular animal names.  For instance, the English command for calling a cat is “Here kitty kitty,” while Russian speakers will coax with a staccato, “Ks-ks-ks.”

When you start to explore the logic behind each language’s impersonation of animal sounds, a well articulate “oink-oink” or “neigh” may sounds more manufactured than we originally thought.  As you watch the following clip, conduct your own survey of the most convincing animal sounds:

In pursuit of my own amusement, I decided to interview friends and family who are bilingual in animal-talk.  They graciously obliged my request to bleat, cluck, and moo over the phone, often pausing part way through to laugh at themselves. We stuck to a basic list of domestic animals.

Kyrgyz; Dilbar (my host-sister in Kyrgyzstan)

Russian; Oskana (my Ukrainian-American aunt)

Do you speak another language that interprets animal noises differently? Are different animals noises more prominent than barn yard calls?  Please share in the comments section below.


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Dare I say we’re on the home stretch to spring and winter just didn’t feel like participating this year?  Stores are eager to purge their shelves and racks of bulky wool sweaters and fur-lined hoodies, making room for the louder colors and patterns of spring break apparel.  Like a hummingbird drawn to nectar, I stop inside the GAP store on State Street and laze from one display to the next, fiddling for price tags that almost never match my more reasonable expectations.  But I never planned on paying full price for a see through sun blouse anyway.  I’m more inclined to dig through the mound of scratchy sweaters in the back, because it’s never too late to start preparing for the inevitable: winter happens every year.

Speaking of winter clothes, one of the best gifts I’ve ever received was a hand-knit sweater vest from my Kyrgyz host-mother. With regards to fashion, the pairing of the words “best gift” and “sweater vest” may seem unlikely, but winters in Kyrgyzstan were relentless and this extra layer appealed to my burrowing instincts. After spending an entire winter admiring my host sister’s vest, I decided it was time to express interest in one myself. So I asked my host mother if she would knit me one for my winter birthday.  She said, “Yes.”

Dibar in her sweater vest.


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We parted ways in the land of mutton and noodles and found each other back in the land of tuna noodle casserole.  I knew Kyndyz was in the Twin Cities, so I called to invite her to celebrate Christmas with my family. It was perhaps the most persistent invitation I’ve ever extended, taking me at least 3 phone calls to convince her that she would not have to work at the mall on Christmas.  While the Kyrgyz have caught Valentine’s Day fever, a Christian holiday simply does not resonate in a country that is predominately Muslim.

After church on Christmas Eve, my brother and I drove across the cities to pick up Kyndyz while the rest of the family went back to my grandparents’ house to prepare our standard meal of beef stroganoff.  In preparing all of the side dishes, my grandpa remembered the no pork rule before grandma sprinkled bacon bits into her broccoli salad.  Something I had forgotten to mention.  They also set out a few presents for Kyndyz under the tree.

In customary fashion, Kyndyz asked if her Kyrgyz friend could join us – a welcome Christmas stowaway.  I alerted family of the addition, so they could rearrange for another guest.  Anyone unfamiliar with Midwestern culture should be cued in on the inherent urge to avoid conflict, even when it just entails curbing an uncomfortable moment of having to add another place set to the table when someone unexpected shows up.  Best to add that chair and pretend to be an infallible hostess – anticipating the needs of unforeseen company.  That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but this helter-skelter hospitality was apparent in the gift exchange after dinner.


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*Name changed for privacy reasons

Two years ago, my Christmas card featured a mash up of my family and my Kyrgyz family.  My parents had come to visit my second summer in Kyrgyzstan and all eight of us had posed for a group photo.  Framed by bright yellow flowers and a cotton candy pink house with sky blue shutters, our mismatched crew took on an equally whimsical appeal.  My dad stood a head above my host dad, showcasing the familiar American toothy grin in contrast to the more stoic Soviet-style camera-ready expression.  And my mom embraced my host sister, lighting up their side with a shared smile. Only my brother was missing – his tall stature would have made him the perfect bookend, opposite my dad.

A photo my host family shared on my facebook wall

I have this photo hanging on my fridge in Madison, Wisconsin, where I now live.  It’s certainly nostalgic, but my connection to those I came to care so much about in Kyrgyzstan is hardly restricted to a 4×6 snapshot.  If I want to catch up on the latest village gossip, I just sign onto Skype and call my host mom’s cell phone, catching her on a Friday morning, while I’m still stuck in Thursday evening.  Or if I want to hear my host sister’s 6-month-old baby boy cooing, I call her cell phone and we spend the next 30 minutes reveling in the sound of each other’s voices. (more…)

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