Whistled language

Use to communicate over large distances.

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How do you communicate over large distances on a mountainous island full of deep ravines? On La Gomera in the Canaries, inhabitants developed a whistling language to save themselves long and arduous treks. Maybe we should all use it when the network coverage is poor.

The whistling mimics the sounds of the local language, using variations in the notes to represent words. Indeed, brain scans show that listeners are exploiting the same parts of the brain used in normal language processing when interpretting the whistling.

Although other places in the world have whistling languages, this one is unusual because it’s so sophisticated and practised by thousands of inhabitants. Indeed, the island habitants learn the language at school. It’s importance has been recognized by Unesco.

Waiter demonstrates language for tourists


La Gomera in the Canaries


  1. Sound extracted from BBC interview
  2. vilb (c) some rights reserved
  3. Suggested by Bernard Berry

Author: Trevor Cox

I am a Professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford where I carry out research and teaching focussing on architectural acoustics, signal processing and audio perception. I am also an author and radio broadcaster having presented many documentaries on BBC radio and written books for academics and the general public.

5 thoughts on “Whistled language”

  1. I am excited to be in Canaries at end of October we will be on a cruise and see only Tenerife Gran Canaria and Lanzarote however this whisteling language has fascinated me for some time and i would like to hear it
    mrs. Jardines

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