Ahhh...interjections! There is no better way to express your true emotions than with a good old “Wow!”, “Yippee!”, and “Whoops!” The concept of interjections always reminds me of the Schoolhouse Rock short, “Interjection.” The short was a clever and entertaining way to teach children and adults how interjections work in English. Wait, aren’t interjections the same in other languages? Let’s take a look. Below are some scenarios and common interjection responses from other languages of the world.
You are skipping merrily down the street when you notice a brown sack lying in a surprisingly well-light alley. The sack seems unattended and no one else seems to notice it. You walk to the sack and see a $100 bill and a note stating the sack contains $50,000! Some reactions to this discovery might be:
English: Hooray, Wow!
Dutch: Hoera, Wow!
French: Hourra, Ouah!
German: Hurra, Wow!
Italian: Hurra, Wow!
Portuguese: Hurra, Uau!
Spanish: Hurra, Guau!
What is interesting is four of the seven languages uses hurra or wow, respectively. The word hurra is used for four of the seven languages as the English word for hooray. The three languages that differ in the English translations of hooray and wow have traits in common. English, a hybrid language, has words that origins come from Dutch and French. French, Portuguese, and Spanish are known as romance languages; a language that originated from Latin.
As you look in the sack, you notice that the other $100 bills do not look alike. At least each of the bills has one of the forty-three United States presidents on the front. As you stand there with a bewildered look on your face, a man dressed in yellow plaid jumps out from behind the dumpster. He informs you that you are on a new game show called “Hoodwink,” and it's being broadcast worldwide. Suddenly, four camera operators come forth and place the cameras right in front of your face. Your reaction may be:
English: Argh, Ha-ha, Oh-oh!
Dutch: Uitdrukking van walging of ergenis, Ha-ha, Oh-oh!
French: Pouah, hehehe/hihihi/hohoho, Oh-oh!
German: Igitt, Ha-ha, Oh-oh!
Italian: Expressao de nojo ou aborrecimento, Ah-ah, Oh-oh!
Portuguese: Expressao de nojo ou aborrecimento, Hue-hue, O!
Spanish: Puaj, Ja -ja, Oh-oh!
While most have a similar word structure to the English version of the word, there are a few instances where more words were used to express the interjection. Also, Oh-oh is the interjection thus far that is similar in every language above.
Despite your negative or positive response from scenario two, four cameras are recording your every reaction. The host asks for your name and you reluctantly give him your name. You are so embarrassed that you are discretely moving away from the cameras and onto the street. Before you make a clean getaway, the host hands you a white envelope. You open the envelope out of curiosity and see nine legitimate $100 bills. The host gives you the $100 bill you saw in the sack and says the $1000 is a prize for being on the show. Your response may be:
English: Huh, Yipee!
Dutch: Uh, Jippie/Hoera!
French: Hou, Bravo/Hourra!
German: Huh, Jipieh/Hurra!
Italian: Uhm, Hurra!
Portuguese: Uuh, Oba/Viva!
Spanish: Uh, Viva/Hurra!
Huh is spelled differently above; however, the sound is virtually the same. The word hoera, hourra, and hurra seem to be interchangeable terms that can mean hooray or yipee.
Each scenario paints one clear picture: injections are not the same in every language. For more information on how sounds differ between languages, I recommend checking out Mr. Chapman's blog: Pictures by James Chapman. It's educational and entertaining at the same time!
Bonus content: Want to have hours of fun with your foreign language speaking friends? Compare animal sounds in both your language and theirs. Below are animal sounds in a few different languages.
English: Woof-woof, Ruff-ruff, Arf-arf, Bow-wow, Yap-yap, Yip-yip
Dutch: Blaf-blaf, Woef-woef, Waf-waf, Kef-kef
French: Wouaff-wouaff, Ouah-ouah; Whou-whou, Vaf-vaf, Jappe-jappe
German: Wuff-wuff, Vow-vow
Italian: Bau-bau; Arf-arf
Spanish: Guau-guau; Gua-gua; Jau-jau
Photo Credit: Kim Woodbridge