A – Say what?

Say what?

What if Animals could speak?

When you think about animal speech there are two different directions that you can take. One has to do with their own language and how they communicate with each other. The other would be what if they could speak to humans so that we understand them and vice versa.

Clearly animals do communicate with each other, so I won’t dwell on that, since that is not a What if… question. But what if they could talk/communicate with humans?

I would like to look at this from different perspectives. One is the way that they do communicate with us, using their own language and other methods of communication and the second being the way they communicate with us using our language, either by us teaching them our language in one form or another, or my fantasies of being able to communicate with animals on a non-verbal intuitive way which you can read about on a previous blog entry:  http://www.hdhstory.net/Storyblog/?p=421

Some animal sounds and actions do communicate with short messages. A cat’s different meows;  dog’s bark or wag of their tail sends us information of love, affection, hunger, fear; or to use an example from a 4th grade student I was talking to, a crocodile making a hissing sound to warn off other animals from its territory.

We can train certain animals to understand what we’re saying, but that is usually rote training of commands, like sit, heel, play dead, etc. I wouldn’t consider that teaching them a language.

Scientists have attempted to teach apes how to communicate using sign language:


Chimpanzees – Viki (1940’s, 1950’s)Nim, Washoe (1960), Sarah, Lana;  

Orangutans – Tilda  – Cologne Zoo, Germany  whistled, clapped hands, smacked lips, deep-throated human-like garbled sounds (2010), Chantek (1978 – ?)

Bonobo – Kanzi doesn’t use sign language; he uses different combinations of lexigrams, or symbols, to communicate. (1980’s)

Gorilla – Koko (1970’s – present) (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koko_(gorilla))

I found that there are some animals that actually try to mimic human sounds. Here is a sound from a beluga whale named Noc, who started mimicking human sounds while held in captivity:

Now compare that with my son at about 1-½ years old: 

If they only could have talked to each other?

I’m pretty sure that this research doesn’t prove in any way that animals can learn to speak our language, or for that matter humans learn to speak, with understanding,  like animals. But just think of all the variations that might occur, should that be a possibility. Would all animals have some sort of universal language? If they learned our language would they be native to the places they are living, not to mention would animals of the same species have different dialects? Just check out these interpretations of animal sounds in different countries: https://goo.gl/khNO8n

Also think of the potential benefits and dangers to us being able to cross communicate. What could we learn from them, and them from us? What alliances could be made between us? Think of organizations like the U.N., Red Cross, NATO, etc. What would be the impact of having interspecies search and rescues? You think Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. are bad trying to get along and agree, what about adding thousands of other species into the mix? And what about negative alliances? What would another World War look like? I rather not think about that.

For me, I’ll continue to imagine that I can talk and communicate with animals. I understand what they’re thinking and can be the interpreter for them when needed even though I still have a bit of difficulty in reading some flies, gnats  and mosquitoes. I hope they accept my apologies if I’ve misinterpreted their thoughts as death wishes.  

On second thought, what if all this time, animals were communicating and speaking to us and we were the ones that refused to learn their languages and respond.  I guess that is a What if…? for some other day.

About hdh

I have been telling stories for over 35 years. As a retired teacher, I hope to expand upon my repertoire and use this blog as a place to do writing. The main purpose is to give me and others that choose to comment, a space in which to play with issues that deal with storytelling, storytelling ideas, storytelling in education, reactions to events, etc. I will also explore some of my own writing, from character analysis to fictional and personal stories. Enjoy!
This entry was posted in A to Z Blog Challenge 2017, Writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A – Say what?

  1. Birgit says:

    I wish they would do more research with sign language with th apes because it shows how much they can learn and how we can learn from them. It also tells us how close we truly are to the animal world. I would find it very humourous if my animals could talk. They would just be telling me what to do and I would go right along.

  2. Tarkabarka says:

    I have a friend who does an excellent impression of a rooster talking (it was a joke from a role-playing campaign where a character cast a spell to understand animals). Turns out roosters are not very smart, because he basically just screams “OH MY GOD THERE IS A FIREBALL ON THE SKY WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE!” every morning. 😀

    Shrew blows nose into snout

  3. If they spoke they’d be in a position to teach us far more than we could offer them for sure.

    Best wishes for the A-Z,
    Theme : Arabiana

  4. Eva says:

    Mosquitos speaking would be really really annoying!

    #AtoZ Challenge Theme: Postcards
    Letter A: Adventurers. Because any postcard is a little adventure, isn’t it?

  5. Toni says:

    What a interesting and provoking post.

    After a life-time of sharing life with Labradors (who are loving and wonderful), I now have a Border Collie! He is astounding. He does talk. He communicates with his eyes, his voice, his ears and has several sounds that he makes when he is asking for various activities. Incredible dog.

  6. Interesting thought indeed and a great concept for the A-Z. Those whale noises do sound human.

  7. Arlee Bird says:

    I could have a regular conversation in English with some animal then that would be pretty weird, but very interesting. If it always happened then I guess it wouldn’t be all that weird.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

  8. Pingback: A to Z Blog Challenge Reflection 2017 | hdhstory.net

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