The Language Of Whistling


Interesting Facts in Easy English

Pre-Listening Vocabulary

  • ancient: from a long time ago
  • dwelling: a place where someone lives
  • relay: to transfer from one person to another
  • revival: the act of coming alive again; rebirth
  • compulsory: required
  • convey: to make something understood
  • masterpiece: an amazing creation
  • intangible: not physically touchable

The Language Of Whistling

Not all languages use words. In some parts of the world, people by whistling. Silbo Gomero is an example of a whistling language. It is an ancient form of communication used in La Gomera, one of Spain’s . Long ago, when dwellings were spread far apart in these valleys, whistling was developed as a form of communication. Relaying a message through whistling was easier than walking to a friend or relative’s home. Neighbours often whistled each other of dangers. While the language seemed to be dying out in the 1950s and 60s, Silbo Gomero experienced a revival in the 90s when it became a compulsory subject at schools in La Gomera. The language, which is based on Spanish, has two whistles for vowels and four whistles for consonants. The  and tone of the whistles help convey the meaning. In 2009 UNESCO declared this unique language as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Comprehension Questions

  1. What is Silbo Gomero?
  2. Why was this ancient language used long ago?
  3. What happened in La Gomera in the 1990s?

Discussion Questions: UNESCO defines a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity as a tradition-based creation, such as a traditional dance, myth, or form of music. What can be done to protect local traditions? Can you think of any intangible masterpieces that are at risk of dying out?

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