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Whistled language. Is it easy?




Hello Italki people.

Is whistled speech easy?

Well, yes and no. If you are already proficient in the substrate language of that particular whistle (Spanish, Turkish or Greek, for example), then with some focused instruction and practice you can quickly learn to understand some basic words, and with more practice more and more words, until eventually understanding whole phrases. And when I say quickly, I mean within days. I've seen people distinguish full phrases on their first day of contact with whistling, and become competent in both producing and understanding it within a month, which brings us to the second major factor in this form of communication: the actual emission of the sound: the whistle itself. This varies enormously between from person to person, with some people already having a good loud whistling technique which can be easily adapted for whistled speech, and others who've never whistled at all, who then have to learn the technique, so this can be the main challenge for some, but a good whistler can always instruct you on how it's done, and if you follow the steps and practice regularly, the odds are that you'll soon be whistling as clearly and loudly as you want.

All in all, I would say that whistled language is quite easy and fast to learn the basics, but of course full proficiency can only come with continued practice. Here where it is a native form of communication, we now have groups of people who meet up every week to practice, and organise excursions about once a month, where we go hillwalking for a full Sunday morning, maybe a dozen or so people in the group, and as we walk through beautiful natural hills and valleys, we have spontaneous whistled chats across the terrain, maybe from one hillside to another, with whistlers from the most competent experienced shepherds with their ear-splitting whistling to complete beginners trying to get a feel for the stuff.

Actually, I've got some footage from some of these hill and mountain walks. I wonder if there's anywhere on here I can post them, so that people here can see a bit of the atmosphere of these hillwalking hikes with whistled conversations as we walk.

Mar 8, 2018 9:25 AM
Comments · 1
Hi Patchy! Great to see a contribution of yours again. Why don’t upload those videos on YouTube and give us a link to them. I think el Silbo is just an awesome way to communicate from one valley to another. I heard it in Gomera and was really thrilled.
March 8, 2018
Language Skills
English, French, Gaelic (Irish), German, Other, Spanish
Learning Language