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Silbo Gomero

We here at busuu.com, who are committed to contributing to the diversity of languages all over the world, have decided to include a new section in our website to learn a little of this charming language so that we can promote it even more and ensure its preservation.

What is Silbo Gomero?


Silbo Gomero is a whistled language used on the beautiful Spanish island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands. Silbo Gomero was invented in order to facilitate communication across the deep valleys between the people of the island long before mobile phones were invented. A speaker of Silbo Gomero is known as a Silbador.

The Gomera Island

History and Origins of the Language


Little is known of the origin of this whistled language but it is thought that it originally came from Africa and was then used for centuries by the natives of the islands called Guanches before being adapted to Castilian Spanish by settlers in the 16th century. More recently Silbo Gomero was nearing extinction when the government of the island decided that it should be compulsory for all schoolchildren on the island to study it and now it is making a comeback.

Why is it used?
Spoken messages can be heard up to a distance of 200 meters but Silbo Gomero can be heard and understood up to a distance of 8 kilometres. In the past it was very useful for communication between shepherds from one mountain to another and for women calling their husbands and sons to come home. It was also very useful to communicate the death or disappearance of a person to the people on the other side of the island as well as a form of communication between courting couples. Nowadays it is still used by many in the hope that this language wont get lost in time.

Busuu Online S.L., 2008, www.busuu.com, info@busuu.com

How it is spoken?
The first time you hear Silbo Gomero it sounds like birdsong but Silbo Gomero is a very precise language proven by the fact that the messages delivered often contain a large amount of specific information. It is thought that the language uses four vowels (a,e,i,o) and four consonants, which can be reduced to the sounds /CHE/, /YE/,/KE/and/GE/. The equivalent sounds of these in Spanish are the following: /CHE/= t, ch, s /YE/= d, n, , l, ll, y, r, rr /KE/= p, k, f /GE/= b, m, g, j The vowels can be either high or low, and the consonants are either rises or dips in the melody line which brings about its rhythm, its intonations and its pauses. The language is actually transcribed directly from a form of Spanish but, while Silbo Gomero is based on the Spanish language, it is used phonetically and so could also be adapted into almost any language.

Some examples of Silbo Gomero:


English Mother Father Grandfather Get up. Sit Down. Come here. Good morning. Good evening. Whats your name? My name is Ramon. How old are you? I am 7 years old. Espaol Mam Pap Abuelo Levntate. Sintate. Ven pac. Buenos das. Buenas tardes. Cmo te llamas? Yo me llamo Ramn. Cuntos aos tienes? Tengo siete aos. Silbo Gomero Gag Kak Ageyo Yegnchache Chinchache Gei kak Geyoi yiai Geyai chayei Kgo che yagai Yo ge yago Yagi Kuncho ayoi chieyei Chengo chieche ayoi

Source: EL SILBO GOMERO. Materiales didcticos, Canarias, June 2005.

Busuu Online S.L., 2008, www.busuu.com, info@busuu.com

Become a Silbador
Below you can see some pictures of how to produce the whistling sound:

Step 1: Position the lips as shown to produce sound

Step 2: Position the finger as such to produce sound

Step 3: Place the tongue inside the bottom lip like this

Step 4: Place bended finger on the tongue as shown

Step 5: Start whistling

Step 6: Send your message!

busuu.com and Silbo Gomero


For the past ten years, cultural associations have taken action to ensure that Silbo Gomero doesnt die out. In 2000 the local government of the island decided to make it an obligatory part of the educational curriculum. As well as that, it has been put forward for candidature as a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. busuu.com has taken the initiative to promote the language in our own way. Take a look at our learning unit under http://www.busuu.com/mysilbo Additionally we kindly ask you to support the candidature of Silbo Gomero as UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by clicking on the link and filling out a short form: http://www.silbogomero.es/formulario.php

We at busuu.com stand for the diversity of languages we will continuously extend the languages offered on our website and plan therefore to do our bit in the hope that beautiful languages such as Silbo Gomero will never die out.

Busuu Online S.L., 2008, www.busuu.com, info@busuu.com

Sources of this document and websites to learn more about Silbo Gomero
EL SILBO GOMERO. Materiales didcticos, Canarias, junio de 2005. CONSEJERA DE EDUCACIN, CULTURA Y DEL GOBIERNO DE CANARIAS Ramn Trujillo Carreo http://www.educa.rcanaria.es/UnidadProgramas/recursos/upload/pconcan_Silbo_Go mero.pdf Website dedicated to Silbo Gomero: http://www.silbogomero.es/silbogomero.php Website dedicated to Silbo Gomero: http://www.vaucanson.org/espagnol/linguistique/lenguas_silbogomero_esp.htm Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silbo_Gomero_language Gomera Island Tourist Board: http://www.gomera-island.com/turismo/index.htm

Busuu Online S.L., 2008, www.busuu.com, info@busuu.com