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Silbo Gomero – Tweeting Is an Actual Language on La Gomera Island

The Silbo Gomero language sounds as sweet as the tweeting of Nightingales. Listening to this beautiful means of communication makes me wonder if birds are actually able to talk to each other in the same manner. Because the people of La Gomera island in the Canaries certainly do one heck of a job of talking through chirp-like whistles.

Silbo Gomero is the name given to the language of whistles spoken on the small island of La Gomera, off the coast of Morocco. It is structured in such a way that the islanders are able to mimic the spoken language of the region – Castilian Spanish – through whistles. While there have been reports of other whistling languages in the world, Silbo Gomero is the only one that is fully developed and practiced by an entire community. It is so organized and thorough that every vowel and consonant can be replaced with a whistle. Depending on the pitch and the number of interruptions, the sounds can be distinguished from each other.

Photo via Reflexiones de Manuel

The language that is considered a cultural heritage of the region was actually under threat of dying out until recently. That’s when the government decided to make it compulsory at school for children. Things have picked up since then, and now almost all the islanders are able to understand and speak the language. The beauty of Silbo Gomero lies in the fact that it can be heard over two miles away. It had to evolve that way in a region where hills and ravines made worded communication impossible. In fact, highly skilled speakers are able to send messages from one end of the island to another. I think that renders mobile phones pretty useless on the island of La Gomera.

 

Religious ceremonies and festivals see a peak in the usage of Silbo Gomero, but tourists can witness the amazing language everywhere they go, even at restautants, as the locals put on shows for that demonstrate just how complex their chirps can be.