This Is Why Some Animals Can Talk

How is it that some animals learn to imitate humans?

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Isn’t it strange that some animals can imitate human speech? You may have heard a parrot squawk a few silly phrases. It’s pretty impressive, especially considering many humans struggle to master the English language. So how are some animals able to speak so flawlessly?

Animals that are able to talk like humans are all “vocal learners,” BBC explains. They hear sounds and learn how to imitate them. Besides humans, some of the most skilled vocal learners include parrots, songbirds, dolphins, and beluga whales. Plus, here are more animals you didn’t know could talk.

The region of the brain that allows certain animals to imitate speech is the forebrain. According to research from the New York Academy of Sciences, the brain circuits in the forebrain help animals to learn new sounds and then use their vocal tract muscles to produce those sounds. Animals who aren’t vocal learners don’t have those particular brain circuits.

Animals that can talk are social species, and most of the animals that have this special skill develop it while they’re in captivity. Since they’re separated from their own kind, they interact with humans and pick up on their vocal cues and then learn how to speak themselves. They don’t realize what they are saying, but they do understand that it’s a way to interact with humans.

Sadly, if you talk to your dog, you probably won’t hear anything in return other than a bark. However, that doesn’t mean you’re left completely in the dark. Check out these 50 things your pet wants to tell you.

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Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is the Assistant Digital Managing Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. When she’s not writing for rd.com or keeping the 650+ pieces of content our team produces every month organized, she likes watching HGTV, going on Target runs, and searching through Instagram to find new corgi accounts to follow.