Dual Language Schools: Biliteracy Word of the WeekLaugher Around the World

03/2019
Author Photo: Velázquez Press

Photo for article: Laugher Around the World

April's Fools is commemorated by doing pranks on friends and family, all to get a good laugh at the expense of another. Laughter is one of the common traits that unites human beings all over the world. Even though we do not speak the same languages, laughter is universal. The difference, however, is the way we laugh and how we write laughter in the different languages around the world. Laughter is onomatopoeic, therefore, writing, or more accurately texting, depends on the language spoken. Following are different ways that laughter can be written in different languages.

In English, laughter is written hahaha. It mimics how most English-speakers laugh. Other languages whose speakers also use hahaha are Arabic and Thai. In Arabic, speakers typically use هههه, four times the letter ه—hā'. Since Arabic is a Semitic language, the short a vowel is not shown, and the fourth ه serves as a filler letter, since short vowels cannot be at the end of a word in written Arabic. Thai speakers use an interesting way to write laughter—555. The Thai word for five is ห้า—, with a high tone.

In Spanish, the letter that is used to imitate laughter is j. In most varieties of Spanish, the letter j is pronounced as a raspy sound at the back of one's palate, so that laughter in Spanish would be written as jajaja. Alternatively, one might hear "hahaha", but the spelling will still be with a j. Other languages that sound like laughter in Spanish are Greeek, Hebrew, Mandarin, and Russian. Greek laughter is written with the letter chi—χ, which makes the same sound as the Spanish j. Hence, χαχαχα is how the Greeks write laughter. In Hebrew, like in Arabic, only consonants are represented in writing—mostly. Therefore, laughter is written as חחח; the letter ח (chet) representing that same raspy sound, but throatier, in Modern Hebrew. In Russia, people there have three choices: хахаха (khakhakha), хихихи (khikhikhi) and хехехе (khekhekhe). In China, Mandarin speakers have two choices: 哈哈—hāhā and 呵呵—hēhē. Note, however, that in pinyin, one of the systems used to transliterate Chinese in the Latin alphabet, the letter h represents the same raspy sound.

Interestingly, some languages use other letters to write laughter. Japanese speakers use the letter w to express laughter: www. This is because laughter in Japanese is warai (笑い). Korean also has a different way of writing laughter: ㅋㅋㅋ, which is short for 크크크—keukeukeu.

Laughter unites all peoples across the world. Regardless of how we write laughter, by sending a text message or posting on social media, the differences are just minute. Whether it is in English, Spanish, or Korean, laughter, and what makes us laugh, is universal.

Sources:
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/12/55555-or-how-to-laugh-online-in-other-languages/266175/
https://linguisticator.com/laughing-different-languages/
https://mymodernmet.com/laughing-on-social-networks/