buusuu.com, a website that describes itself as an “online community for learning languages”, provides online lessons in English, Spanish, French and German, as well as opportunities for language learners to learn from one another.

They are currently celebrating their first anniversary and are offering a 10% discount on premium memberships.

They have also added video language lessons recently, and they have an interesting feature about Silbo Gomero, the whistled language of La Gomera in the Canary Islands.

4 thoughts on “buusuu.com

  1. I guess whistled Silbo would just be a melody. Some people do believe that music and song are the foundation of man-made languages.

    Simon – to what extent does this idea of melody play in learning tonal languages like Chinese? For example, when I hear a sentence in English or French (or any other Romance language) or even Japanese, my comprehension is based mostly on the “etymological” word pieces, and sometimes a certain rhythm and melody. But I have always wondered how a speaker of Chinese “hears” Chinese? Do you ever understand a sentence in Chinese just by the unique melody of the phrase, like someone may recognize the opening sequence of a Beethoven symphony?

  2. When those who use Silbo do so, they still use the same language-processing parts of the brain as speakers of any language.

    El Silbo is based on Spanish, using techniques that predate the Spanish conquest of the Canary Is. by at least centuries, if not millennia.

    El Silbo is not the only whistled language- There’s at least a dozen surviving whistled languages on at least 5 continents, only that El silbo Gomero is the best-known and the easiest that works with atonal langiages, known for the efforts to preserve the practice (including mandatory learning on at least Gomera Island, funded by the Spanish government) and its World Heritage status from the UN.

    The last regular studio album by a popular Canarian folk/pop/rock/world music group, “Artenara”, was titled “Junonia Minor”, a collection of Spanish, English and American poetry, translated into Spanish and whistled in El Silbo by master silbador Don Isidro Ortiz using an interesting mix of contemporary and traditional Spanish and world music, used to be available on CD, but the group decided all their releases will be made freely available as MP3s, here: http://www.artenara.com/espanol/bajar.html – Just scroll down to “Junonia Minor” and either check out the MP3s individually, or download the ZIPped multimedia presentation that’s based on what used to be a dedicated website Artenara made for this album years ago (in Spanish). A unique souvenir of a very unique means of communication, and nice to listen to. 🙂


  3. Tommy – I don’t know if speakers of tonal language such as Chinese hear them differently to the way speakers of non-tonal languages hear their languages. You can’t understand Chinese simply by listening to the intonation, as far as I know. At least I can’t.

    Prosody (intonation, rhythm, pitch and stress) plays an important role in all languages. In English, for example, a rising intonation at the end of an utterances usually signals a question, and stress is used to show whether words are being used as nouns or verbs, eg segMENT (verb) v SEGment (noun), and to show which words belong together, eg chocolate, cake and ice cream (3 items) v chocolate cake and ice cream (2 items).

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