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Off topic: Rats Might Be Multilingual
Thread poster: Sormane Fitzgerald Gomes

Sormane Fitzgerald Gomes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:58
Member (2004)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Jan 10, 2005

MONDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDayNews) -- If you want to be like Dr. Dolittle and talk to the animals, it might help to know that rats can tell the difference between languages.

Spanish researchers found that rats were able to use rhythm and intonation speech cues to distinguish between spoken Dutch and Japanese. This makes rats only the third type of mammal -- along with humans and Tamarin monkeys -- who have been shown to possess the ability to recognize different speech patterns.

First, different groups of rats were trained to press a lever and receive a reward when they heard a five-second sentence in either Dutch or Japanese. All the rats were then exposed to both languages. The rats who'd been exposed to Japanese responded only to that language and the rats who'd been exposed to Dutch responded only to Dutch.

Further tests revealed the rats were able to identify new Dutch or Japanese sentences they'd never heard before.

However, the rats did have some trouble identifying the languages when different people spoke the same sentences that had previously been recognized by the rats.
"It was striking to find that rats can track certain information that seems to be so important in language development in humans," study author Juan Toro said in a prepared statement. The research shows "which abilities that humans use for language are shared with other animals, and which are uniquely human. It also suggests what sort of evolutionary precursors language might have."

The findings appear in the January issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes.


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Ivana de Sousa Santos  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:58
French to Portuguese
+ ...
My dog has also got that capacity Jan 10, 2005

I am surprised to hear that only humans, monkeys and rats can tell the diffrence between languages, as my dog is perfectly bilingual (the one in the picture, yes).

Hw was born in France and when my mum bought him for me he was already 4 months and a half. He didn't respond when we called him. I first thought it was because I had changed his name (he was called "Nellroy"! Nobody calls a dog "Nellroy!... Just kiding! You might think crazy the name I gave him afterwards - Layzie-Bone). When I tried to call him "Nellroy" he didn't respond either. I discouvered afterwards that he was a very frightned dog because he was afraid of everything, of every single noise (even a sheet of paper falling). I came to the conclusion that he had been ill-treated by the lady who sold him to us.

All this to say that I started talking to him in French (even though we are a Portuguese family and always spoke Portuguese at home). I was also used to speak in French to my friends' dogs when I lived in Switzerland, so I spoke to Layzie-Bone in French. When we came to Portugal he heard everybody speaking Portuguese and, after 7 years of companionship, I also speak Portuguese to him from time to time.

He comes to me when I say "viens ici" and "anda cá". He gives me his paw when I say "donne-moi ta patte" or "dá a patinha". He sits down when I say "assis" or "senta". He lays down when I say "couché" or "deita". He also stops when I say "stop" or "arrête" or "reste" or "pára". And so on. I can also tell you that I usually give him these commands in a soft voice. Sometimes people tell me that I perhaps change the tone of voice and that he responds to my tone of voice, not to the commands, which is not true.

Besides he also understands signs. If I put my hand in the hair and move my fingers altogether downwards he knows he has to sit down. If I put my hand as a sign of stop (for instance, when he's on the other side of the road and I don't want him to cross because there's a car coming) he stops.

I could tell you lots of examples just to say that my dog is perfectly bilingual.

It's an interesting study, however, but not totally correct. I think dogs can also be put in that category (not only my dog, of course).

Regards,
Ivana


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Kevin Fulton
United States
Local time: 05:58
German to English
My daughter's cat can differentiate Jan 11, 2005

We adopted a 6-month old kitten when we lived in Germany in 1990. We moved back to the US in 1994. Tiger is a friendly cat, but she's generally shy around strangers for the first hour or so. If our guests are German-speaking, however, she comes to visit immediately.

This is, however, the only sign of intelligence our cat generally demonstrates, apart from distinguishing between the sound of a can of cat food opening and that of a can of peas.


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Henk Peelen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:58
Member (2002)
German to Dutch
+ ...
No doubt about it. Jan 11, 2005

Sormane Gomes wrote:
...
The rats who'd been exposed to Japanese responded only to that language and the rats who'd been exposed to Dutch responded only to Dutch.
...
However, the rats did have some trouble identifying the languages when different people spoke the same sentences that had previously been recognized by the rats.
...

Has nothing to do with trouble, they just don't like double Dutch!


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sylvie malich
Germany
Local time: 10:58
German to English
That explains it... Jan 11, 2005

our hamster came back from the animal hotel pretty disoriented after spending 3 weeks with German speakers.

She's all right now after a few days of confusion and getting into the rhythm again, in fact we've decided to speak English to her and my daughter will speak German to her. We want to raise her bilingually, doncha know.


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Ruxi
German to Romanian
+ ...
Animals can do a lot... Jan 11, 2005

...but we don't know it.
They can differentiate languages. I don't know if it is the sonority of them, or the association of the words they know with different things.
I have seen on TV dogs knowing very well to bring only that object meant by the master and no other. They were trained on it.
My little dog knew it too and also had problems in a Hungarian family were we lived during holidays.He did not understand those commands for him said in Hungarian.
As I said probably they do associate a word with an object and if you use another word they fail to make the association.
Like with the name. They learn their name and if you use another one they don't show/"say" "it is not me", but they don't answer, they don't associate the name with their person.
It is all a matter of training, like at human beings.


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:58
German to English
+ ...
Just a ruse Jan 11, 2005

This talk about multilingual rats is just a ruse. The real intention is for rats to be able to become ProZ.com members, and to bid for jobs.

Since they have much lower accommodation costs, they will be able to offer much lower prices, perhaps as little as 1.5 cents per word. This is unfair.

I therefore wish to stress that to be a professional translator, it isn't enough to be a multilingual rat. The rats should also possess translation experience, and where possible suitable qualifications.

Marc


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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 06:58
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
But they are also intelligent Jan 11, 2005

in the Dominican Republic, where I lived for several years, and where there were lots of rats ("it's endemic" I was told), I was also taught that you must never say how you're planning to kill them, because they understand, no matter which language you use.

Claudia


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Florence B  Identity Verified
France
Member (2002)
English to French
+ ...
Dogs too Jan 11, 2005

This story reminded me of something I had read long ago about a dog, so I've done a bit of searching and here it is:
http://www.dogsinthenews.com/issues/0106/articles/010606a.htm
F


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Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:58
And if they want to become interpreters... Jan 11, 2005

MarcPrior wrote:

This talk about multilingual rats is just a ruse. The real intention is for rats to be able to become ProZ.com members, and to bid for jobs.

Since they have much lower accommodation costs, they will be able to offer much lower prices, perhaps as little as 1.5 cents per word. This is unfair.

I therefore wish to stress that to be a professional translator, it isn't enough to be a multilingual rat. The rats should also possess translation experience, and where possible suitable qualifications.

Marc


... the rats will have to learn to speak first!! ))


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:28
English to Tamil
+ ...
All this reminds me of this rat! Jan 16, 2005

There was this mother rat living with her two children. Evading one day their mother's supervision, these small rats ventured out only to be chased by the house cat. Whereupon the mother rat hid behind a stool and barked "bow-wow". The cat took fright and ran away. She then told her children: " See the advantage of learning a foreign language!"

Regards,
N.Raghavan

[Edited at 2005-01-18 10:24]


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