Koshik the Elephant Learns to Imitate Korean Speech

In the journal Current Biology, (Dr. Angela) Stoeger et al. are reporting that a young male Asian elephant named Koshik has the ability to imitate human speech by vocalizing Korean words with his trunk in his mouth. The New York Times reports that it “is not clear, however, how much Koshik understands, or whether he is capable of learning more. While he seems to know the meaning of “sit,” for instance, he does not expect his trainers to sit when he says the word himself.” You can listen to Koshik vocalize in this video.

The following vocal interaction with the trainer is documented:
Koshik: “choah” (good)
Trainer: “choah choah annyong” (good good hello)
Koshik: “choah” (good)
Trainer: “choah choah annyong” (good good hello)
Koshik: “choah” (good)
Trainer: “choah choah” (good good)
Koshik: “choah” (good)
Trainer: “annyong” (hello)
Koshik: “choah” (good)
Trainer: “annyong” (hello)

Koshik

Angela Stoeger and Daniel Mietchen recording Koshik’s vocalizations at the Everland Zoo in South Korea.
image via The New York Times

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