A Study Reveals Dogs Can Understand and Learn Different Languages

    The research aimed to find out if the dogs had a special reaction when they heard a language other than the one they were usually exposed to

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    A study -published in Science Direct- carried out with 18 dogs of different breeds found that canines have the ability to understand and even learn different languages. The research aimed to find out if the dogs had a special reaction when they heard a language other than the one they were usually exposed to.

    Laura V. Cuaya, a scientist at EotvosLorand University in Budapest, did the work upon moving to Hungary from Mexico. She had a dog named Kun-Kun that she spoke to in Spanish. Out of the 18 adult dogs selected for the study, 9 were female and 9 were male of the Golden Retriever, Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, Labradoodle, Cocker Spaniel, and mixed breeds. Out of them, 16 were related to Hungarian and 2 to Spanish.

    All participating animals were previously trained to remain still inside an MRI scanner. In the meantime, the owners volunteered for the study and received no monetary compensation, the investigation explained.

    Findings of the study

    Based on the fact that dogs have the ability to memorize a certain phonetic pattern (a succession of sounds and in a certain order), the researcher got down to work. She had the support of 4 more colleagues.

    All the puppies were fitted with headphones so that they could listen to fragments of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. And they did it in Spanish and Hungarian, at the same time that the pets were subjected to brain scans. The fragments were read by 2 native speakers in each language, although with similar timbre and vocal characteristics. Both the text and the speakers were unknown to all the dogs and the text was recorded with lively and engaging intonation, the study added.

    The first conclusion is that the dogs identified their “mother tongue” while reacting differently to Hungarian. That is to say: they knew that it was not the language to which they used to be exposed. “The scan revealed distinct regions in the dog’s brain that encode features that may allow speech detection or language representation”, the research indicates.

    For its part, National Geographic points out that dogs can learn more than one language. “It (the dog) adopts as usual the phonetic patterns and voice inflections of both languages and it is able to assume that both can be used to talk to it, but at the same time it is aware that they are different”,indicates the publication in its animal section.

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