One of the most amusing thing about parrots is that they can be taught how to talk. These birds are excellent at mimicking sounds. However, parrots experts say that not all of these birds have a ‘gift’ for language. Some parrot breeds respond better to speech training than others. And, like all creatures, parrots have their own temperament and personality. Some may enjoy speech training and pick up words fairly quickly; others will not like it at all, and may take a lot of practice (and patience!) to master one or two words. Here are some things you may want to know about training your parrot how to talk.
Why do some parrots learn more words than others?
Certain parrot breeds are known for being more ‘talkative.’ These include the Blue Fronted Amazon, the Yellow Nape Amazon, the Mexican Double Yellow Head Amazon, the Yellow Crowned Amazon, and the African Gray.
Parrots that share a cage with other talking parrots will also learn more quickly. So do lone parrots who spend most of their time interacting with their human owners, and whose cage is located an area where they constantly hear people talk.
‘Talking’ vs. ‘Responding’
A parrot can be taught to imitate speech, which means he will repeat a sound. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he understands what it means, and though he’ll say it frequently, he’ll do this sporadically. It is not ‘meaningful’ speech but really just an echoing of a sound.
A few highly intelligent parrots—patiently trained, and often in a formal class with a professional—can be taught ‘responsive speech.’ They understand the words and can be taught to answer questions.
However, all parrots must begin to learn to imitate sounds—blindly and without any understanding—before they can move on to responsive speech.
Tips for training a parrot how to talk
Focus on one word at a time. Pick a short word, preferably just one or two syllables. Teaching too many words at the same time will confuse your pet. A good choice is ‘Hi!’
Repeat the word as frequently as you can. If there’s more than one person in the house, get them to help too. Be sure to enunciate, in a firm and slow voice: ‘Hiiiiiiiii!’ Say it over and over again, pausing for a few seconds between each repetition, to give your pet bird a chance to make a sound—any sound. In fact, at this stage, the sound doesn’t even have to resemble the word. Reward it with a toy or favorite food so it knows that it attaches the idea of a treat with mimicking sounds. However, save very lavish praise for imitations that are very close to the sound that you want. As the speech training progresses, you can begin to reward only specific sounds.
Teach a new word only when your pet parrot has mastered the first word. Stick to one or two syllables until he has mastered several words.
photo from worldpettravel.com.