Animal, Clever Chimpanzee.
„Calm down!“ said Alex. „Don´t tell me to calm down!“ replied Irene. Husband and wife? Brother and sister? No, Alex is an African grey parrot and Dr Irene Pepperburg has trained him to talk – he has a vocabulary of about 100 words. Alex can also count up to seven, and identify shapes, colours and materials. And he has a close relationship with Dr Pepperburg. When she had to leave Alex with the vet for an operation, he asked her not to go. „Stop!“ he screamed. „I love you! Come back!“
Apes are also famous for learning human language. Koko, a gorilla who was taught sign language, has learnt more than 1,000 signs and can understand about 2,000 English words. She has even done an Internet „chat“! But one of the most famous animal „language learners“ is Kanzi, a chimpanzee, who communicates by pressing symbols on a special keyboard. Kanzi not only has a large vocabulary, he also makes up words, for example, „finger bracelet“ (ring) and „white tiger“ (zebra). And he responds to an enormous number of researcher, Dr Savage-Rumbaugh, asked him to wash a potato, and then she told him to turn off the water. She asked him to get a ball, and told him to put a tomato in the fridge and to put a key in the fridge. Kanzi responded correctly to 74 per cent of 660 requests and instructions. Kanzi is clearly a remarkable chimp. Once, Dr Savage-Rumbaugh´s keys were stolen by another them back for her. Kanzi went to talk to the guilty chimp, and brought back the stolen keys. And when he´s relaxing, Kanzi likes watching TV - Tarzan is one of his favorite movies!
But can animals really learn and use language? If your parrot tells you not to be silly, it´s probably because the parrot has often heard you say „Don´t be silly!“. And perhaps we should spend more time trying to understand how animals communicate with each other, instead of teaching them to communicate with us.
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