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Can animals learn human language?

can animals learn human language

We’ve been talking about how to learn languages and the process of natural language acquisition.

But can animals do the same? Can animals learn human language?

There are many scientific and theoretical explanations for each angle, so let’s examine two premises for this idea.

Premise 1: Animals can learn human language

Can animals learn human language just by hearing the words?

If you have seen videos of birds (African grey parrot, cockatoo), beluga whale, horses, apes (gorillas, chimpanzees), dogs, cats, or any other animal speaking to their owner, then you may think they can understand human language.

Animals respond to human speech by training them in that environment.

Many farm animals like horses, ducks or geese, and cows respond to either their owner’s call or a farm dog.

You can even train your pets to talk to you about their needs with a tool called “recordable training buttons”.

Humans are sometimes portrayed as the only primate species capable of vocal learning, a capacity shared by many groups of mammals (bats, pinnipeds, cetaceans, and elephants) and numerous orders of birds (songbirds, parrots, and hummingbirds).

However, experts continue to raise concerns about how other species’ voice learning compares to that of humans, the level of vocal learning in other primates, and how vocal learning evolved in humans.

According to research, they discovered that when the dogs heard nonsensical words, areas of their brains involved in auditory processing became more engaged.

They believe their findings indicate that dogs can distinguish between human words they’ve already heard and words they haven’t.

What we can learn from this theory of language development in the animal kingdom is that animals are capable to be trained under the right circumstances since they can process languages through different means.

Premise 2: Animals cannot learn the human language

Language and communication are two different aspects. Many people don’t know the distinction between communication and language.

Another argument that animals are unable to acquire human language is their inability to learn a human civilization. Human language is culturally and conventionally constrained.

That is not to say that a person cannot learn a second language that is related to his mother tongue.

When a person learns a second language, he realizes that language is culturally conventionalized based on his mother tongue experience.

Animals, on the other hand, do not have this culture to which they may refer, as people do.

Because human and animal language is formed from two unique environments, they not only appear different but also cannot be accessible by each other.

Humans’ capacity to sense time and items they cannot see has also resulted in cultural variations between the two languages.

As a result, an animal will never be able to learn human language or vice versa.

Our Thoughts

Whether animals can learn the human language or not is still in talks today.

What we can share with you is a natural way of learning languages through daily practice.

Speaking and thinking in your target language is one of the best practices when you have zero knowledge about a language you want to learn.

There are many tricks to learn languages faster since humans have a complex ability to memorize certain words and phrases.

Sometimes, the grammatical structure is not a high priority when you can understand the vocal communication of a native speaker through gestures.

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