How People Laugh Online in Different Languages

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You’re probably familiar with “haha” or “lol”. But did you know that in other languages people don’t say “haha” the same way? It all depends on the alphabet they use… and sometimes, the sound they make in the local culture when they laugh.

Wall of smiley faces with laugh cry emojis, used to laugh online in Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, Korean, Farsi, Hebrew and other languages
How we laugh online in different languages

As we learn languages mostly online with tutors (even when we’re in the same country, like we did with Arabic), we end up chatting sometimes over Skype and WhatsApp. The result is that there’s lots of laughter. While a laugh-cry emoji goes a long way, and “LOL” and its variants come and go, saying “hahaha” is a mainstay everywhere and is likely to remainone.

Here’s how you say “hahah” in the languages we speak.

Laughing online in Arabic

This is one we learned most recently when chatting in Arabic with our language teachers in Egypt (these are our final videos of us speaking Arabic after sixty days of trying).

“هههههههههه”

You read Arabic from right to left, although it doesn’t matter here… it just reads “hhhhhhh”.

In Arabic, people don’t write short vowels like ‘a’. It’s implied. Which means even though it’s just a string of “h” sounds you read it “hahahahaha”.

Still, first time I saw it, I definitely read this as a hissing sound.

It’s also interesting to me that they don’t use the harder “ح” (also “h”, but from the back of the throat).

You also see the occasional

هع هع هع

This is pronounced “ha3″… hard to explain. It’s more rare though.

Laughing in online chat in Hebrew

“חחחחחחח”

This reads “kh-kh-kh-kh”.

In Hebrew, like in Arabic, you don’t write short vowel sounds. So the “a” is also implied.

If you ever hear someone in Israel laughing sarcastically out loud (shout-out to my Israeli team, full of gentle sarcasm at the ludicrousness of business there), they’ll make this same sound: “kha kha kha kha”.

Laughing online in Farsi/Persian

Farsi is my mother tongue, so I mostly speak it at home, rather than write it. But I am friends with more and more Persian speakers online so have seen a few interesting things!

Farsi uses the Arabic character set (give or take), but people don’t express “haha” the same way — a sign of how local an online community can be.

The most common way to laugh online in Farsi is:

“خخخخخخخخ”

Like in Arabic, this is just a consonant, omitting the short vowel (which isn’t written in modern Persian). But it’s a different consonant to the one used in Arabic.

In Farsi, we use the “kh” consonant. So this is the equivalent of laughing with “kha-kha-kha”. Again, like in Hebrew, you can hear people sarcastically saying “kha-kha-kha” in conversation.

There’s a second way of laughing online in Farsi:

“ها ها ها ها”

This one is simpler to read as they write in the long “a” vowel. It reads “ha ha ha”. Actually technically it’s a longer “a’, a bit like the “o” in “long”.

Laughing in text messages in Chinese

In Chinese, each character usually has a unique meaning, and a unique syllable.

For imported words, a set of “phonetic” characters are used, which don’t really have a common meaning. They’re just used to represent a sound. This is what’s used to laugh in Chinese text messages!

“哈哈哈哈”

This is a character for the sound “ha”. It has no other meaning — it’s only used for phonetic spellings of western words, or to say “hahahaha”.

A variant of Chinese online laughter is

呵呵呵呵

Which is interpreted as “hehe”, more gentle laughter.

Laughing via SMS in Korean

Korean uses character set where consonants and vowels are grouped into syllable clusters, called “hangul”.

Non-Korean speakers often mistakenly think these are like Hanzi/Kanji characters, but they’re not — they’re purely phonetic.

The most common way people laugh online in Korean is:

“ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ”

This is a “k” sound in Korean, which means you read th is “k-k-k-k-k-k”. Like a giggle! But this just represents laughing, and the more are used, the funnier. Sometimes people just write “kkkkkk” too (or used to, before smartphones made multilingual typing so easy).

Koreans also use a “h” or “ha” syllable sometimes

ㅎㅎㅎㅎㅎ
하하하하하

These are literally “h-h-h” or “ha-ha-ha”.

Laughing online in Thai

Thai also uses a phonetic alphabet (technically referred to as an “abugida”, which means a writing system with full consonants and diacritical marks for vowels) although

The most common way people laugh online in Thai is using:

“5555555”

The number five is pronounced “ha” (in Thai: “ห้า”). So it’s a cute shorthand to just say “555” instead of writing out “ห้าห้าห้า” (which you can also do).

The number five in the Thai numeric system is “๕”. But in Thailand, like in most (non-Arab) countries, the standard Roman digits are more common. So they’ll use “5” instead of “๕”.

Note: We don’t actually know Thai, but I spent six months in Bangkok on a project once and got to know a lot of the local people and culture.

Laughing in Spanish

If you’ve ever had a Spanish-speaking friend, you’ll maybe notice them saying:

“Jajajaja”

And then you’ll remember that Spanish has no aspirated “h” sound. They say “‘otel”, just like the French. So this “jajaja” is literally pronounced with a soft “kh”, like “khakhakha”.

Laughing sarcastically out loud, the Spanish will aspirate the “kh” sound, just like in Hebrew.

Laughing in French

In French people just tend to write “hahah” online.

But there’s another way the French laugh in chat:

“mdr”

This isn’t so much an equivalent for “haha” but slang for “mort de rire“, literally “died of laughter”. I guess you could say this is the equivalent of “LOL” in English.

I’m mentioning it because it’s SO common. The French had their own internal internet for a while (it didn’t work out, as you can imagine), and they developed a strong online community there.


Got another way people laugh online? We don’t really write about languages we don’t know/aren’t studying, but we’d love to hear from you in an email or a comment!

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