Learning French, even the animals have their say !

Learning French, even the animals have their say !
3 March 2023 Virginia Bastide
In Explore, Study, Work

!At Le Repertoire de Gaspard, we offer a range of French lessons tailored to your level but when you are tired of grammar and conjugating verbs, take a break from your French learning to find out why French animal sounds are different from anglophone animals!

Parlez-vous français?

Did you know that in France, they have a set of onomatopoeias for animal sounds? There is even a verb that describes these sounds. As an English lesson reminder, “onomatopoeias” are words that mirror the sound of the object or action they represent. The French language uses the same thing – onomatopées

Each language’s animal noises are actually an interpretation made through the various sounds each language. Let’s have a listen for some well-known animals and find out how we could communicate with French animals!


We are used to imagining the sound of a rooster waking everyone up at 6 am with his friendly cock-a-doodle-do. In France however, the rooster is singing cocorico to welcome the start of a new day.

Photo courtesy of Ashes Sitoula


French chickens say cotcotcodet versus our infamous cluck.  Additionally, the verb caqueter means to gossip, so you can imagine the chickens gathering together for a natter in the farmyard. Chicks say piou-piou and our Anglophone counterparts chirp and piou-piou even describes babies and toddlers. We look after many at Le Repertoire de Gaspard via our English-speaking childcare services.


Ever heard someone say il est groignant (he is grumpy)? Well, it stems from groigner meaning dissatisfied and un cochon grogne is a pig grumbling. So pigs are moody in France as they make a gutteral groin-groin versus the more upbeat oink oink from across the channel.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth Vera


Our old friend Donald Duck makes the noise coin coin (pronounced kwan kwan), for us, quack quack! The noise he makes is referred to as le canard cancane – no the duck is not doing a Can Can but rather, cancaner meaning to gossip.


My favourite animal in this communication mix is the cow who produces a meuh instead of moo!

One should remember that our varied vocabulary for animal sounds is really just a reflection of what different nationalities hear them say.

At the agency, we have a diverse community of people from all over the world. Find out more here!

Cows not only play an important role in France’s diet – dairy products and meat but there are many phrases featuring the cow that you may have heard during your time living in France. For example amour vache, a love-hate relationship and Oh la vache ! An exclamation of surprise or a more polite version of oh sh*%…

A phrase that our French teacher Amelie Saint-Denis fortunately does not need to use on our students, parler français comme une vache espagnole, meaning to speak bad French or in literal terms, like a Spanish cow – though I am not sure why a Spanish cow needs to be insulted in this mix!

Photo courtesy of Tran Mau Tri Tram

Cats and dogs

Similarly, our common domestic pets share similar sounds as cats share almost the same noise, miaou or meow for us. The French go a step further to consider the cats emotional wellbeing or not as in le chat feule, the cat yowls and le chat ronronne meaning the cat purrs. Dogs say ouaf ouaf – wouf wouf and if you hear him go jappe, he’s yapping away happily. Better than glapit where he is yelping.


Meanwhile, the gobbling turkey goes glou glou…listen out for être le dindon de la farce (end up as the laughing stock), as un dindon isn’t just a male turkey but also an idiot.

Photo courtesy of Ansgar Ids

Horses and donkeys

In addition, horses go hiiii instead of a good old neigh and donkeys hi-han. While learning French, there’s a handy grammar tip using a donkey is that if I mix up the order of y and en in a sentence, think of one going y en or hi-han in French and hee haw in English.

In conclusion, ouf!

More importantly, lets revise what we learnt with a chorus of animals to end this blog

·       Cat miaou miaou

·       Cow meuh

·       Dog ouaf ouaf

·       Donkey hi-han

·       Duck coin coin

·       Goat bêê

·       Horse hiiii

·       Lion raoh

·       Mouse piit piit

·       Owl ouh ouh

·       Pig groin-groin

·       Pigeon rou rou

·       Turkey glou glou

·       Wolf ooouh

·       Bee bzzz


Lastly, it is time for me to bzzz off…

Photo courtesy of Dmitry Gregoriev



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