A Whistle a Day Keeps Globalization Away


MOUTHING OFF: Students at the Lomada School demonstrate their El Silbo technique

Maria Garcia is as hip as any 11-year-old in Seoul, Seattle or Sydney. Here at the Lomada School on La Gomera, the second-smallest of Spain's seven Canary Islands, she has a cell phone tucked into the waistband of her trousers, which leave a fashionably bare patch of tanned tummy. But Maria and her classmates are also masters of a form of low-tech communication that doesn't require batteries or microwaves. Along with about 1,800 other schoolchildren on this rugged volcanic island, Maria is a student of El Silbo, the Gomera whistle, a substitute language based on four consonant and two vowel sounds....

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!