With a boo boo here and a wan wan there...
No, German cows don’t speak a different language than English cows. Yes, a dog barking in France sounds the same as a dog barking in Spain. It’s not actually the sounds that are different, but rather the words used to describe the animal sounds.
I can vividly remember my weekly Japanese class in Year 7, when our teacher tried to explain that, in Japanese, a dog’s bark is described as ‘wan wan’ rather than ‘woof’ or ‘bow wow’. To say my classmates and I were confused is an understatement - we were lost.
It took me a long time (longer than I should admit!) to understand that, while animals make the same sounds the world over, humans do not. Most of the differences in the words that we ascribe to animal sounds come down to the evolution of how a sound was first heard and passed down in stories and other texts.
The ESL Language Studies Abroad company has created a really fun depiction of the different animal sounds across the world. Check it out here when you’ve got a free minute - this is especially fun for the kids.
Here is a chart showing the most common spellings of many different animal sounds in some of the most popular languages around the world. Just like with many other words, some do not have direct translations and are designated by an X.