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Dogs Learning New Languages

When neuroethologist Laura Cuaya moved to Budapest from Mexico with her border collie, Kun-kun, she was curious if her pup would understand her if she began speaking to him in another language. Cuaya spearheaded a research project to conduct fMRIs on various adult dogs. The dogs listened to recordings speaking to them in their familiar language, an unfamiliar language, and a series of nonsense words. The study found that dogs’ auditory cortex lit up when distinguishing between the different languages, showing that dogs can detect the differences between the two. The older the dog was, the more differences in language they were able to understand. Cuaya’s conclusions are consistent with that of preverbal infants who can pick up on several languages before starting to speak.

Eniko Kubinyi, Department of Ethology at Eotvos Lorand University

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