Silbo Gomera - The Sweet Whistling Language That Transforms Humans Into Nightingales

By Meera Dolasia on February 27, 2012

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If you ever visit La Gomera, one of the small islands that make up the Canaries, you are guaranteed to hear some sweet nightingale like whistling sounds. While some may emanate from the golden-voiced bird itself, chances are most of what you are hearing is coming from the residents, who believe it or not, are tweeting actual words to each other in a language they call Silbo Gomera (Spanish for 'Gomeran Whistle') or El Silbo (the whistle).

Nobody knows for sure how this whistling language originated, since it was apparently invented even before the original residents of the island, the now extinct race known as the Gaunches came to settle there. It is believed that before the last of them left the island in the 16th Century, they passed it on to the Spanish settlers who not only adopted it, but also, translated it to Spanish.

As is the case with most ancient languages, it flourished until about the 19th Century and then began to die down. By the late 20th Century, barely anyone could 'speak' this unique whistling language. Alarmed at the loss of what was regarded as a cultural heritage, the local government decided to step in and make the language mandatory for all students.

Today, all the residents of this tiny island are proficient in Silbo Gomera and take great pride in chirping away at each other. Also, while there are a few other whistling languages around the world this, is the only one that is fully developed - One where every vowel and consonant of the local spoken language, Castilian Spanish can be mimicked by distinct whistles, making for some real sweet sounds!

Resources: odditycentral.com, wikipedia.org

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124 Comments
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  • littlemissy
    littlemissyTuesday, October 28, 2014 at 9:29 am
    Cool
    • marie12
      marie12Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at 11:02 am
      Can somebody follow me on Marie12
      • parker818332
        parker818332Monday, September 15, 2014 at 1:11 pm
        I want to go there
        • meFriday, September 12, 2014 at 8:31 pm
          wish i could do that xD
          • JAmamamaMonday, August 4, 2014 at 9:25 pm
            am I wish I can do that amazing language sounds for birds all I know is tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet trrewerwt tweeet tweet twee
            • kk25745Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 4:35 pm
              awesome!!!
              • jen Friday, July 12, 2013 at 7:56 pm
                i wonded if you have to lrean the whistling
                • jen Friday, July 12, 2013 at 7:51 pm
                  that is coolest
                  • sparkle987
                    sparkle987Friday, June 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm
                    I want to learn that
                    • domoWednesday, March 27, 2013 at 9:01 am
                      woah they should use that in the hunger games to comunicate!
                      • borntoplay
                        borntoplaySaturday, June 8, 2013 at 9:29 am
                        TRUE! They should have done that.

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