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Can Pets Learn to Communicate in Different Languages?

April 9, 2019

Humans speak in hundreds, if not thousands, of different languages. However, only three percent of the world's population is considered to be multilingual (active speakers in four or more tongues) and a multilingual pet owner is essential to bridge a multiple-language gap. So, how many languages must a pet's owner speak to be considered a polyglot? If you apply the Greek root word, speaking one language would make a person a monoglot, two make one a bilingual, three languages are considered trilingual, and four or more means the speaker is a polyglot.

All pets are capable of communicating with others of the same species as well as those of with a completely different genetic makeup. Animal experts believe the concept of language is set by genetic makeup despite the barriers created by not sharing a common language. Nonetheless, verbal communications between pets like cats and dogs is not a map containing detailed concepts like the way human words form a pet owner's language. For example, there is no one syntax that an owner can learn to understand what their pet is saying. That said, most pets easily learn to communicate with each other and eventually with their owners.

Despite the fact feline and canine body language is very different, when a puppy and kitten bond, they often adopt same behaviors but with different meanings. So, the fact that a swishing tail on dog signals a "happy greeting" does not help you interpret a cat's tail doing something similar. For example, the same swishing tail with a feline can easily be followed by a swat with his or her razor-sharp claws. Regardless of the number of human languages a pet owner may be fluent in speaking, chances are there pet will acknowledge the same command in differing tongues; but the pet's actions likely have more to do with a collection of communication cues than changes in vocalization.

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