Can Dogs Recognize Tagalog and English? This Study Says Yes

You can probably train them in conyo too.

Whether you say "sit" or "upo," your dog is said to understand both.

Dogs can apparently understand differences in languages, according to researchers from Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary. In what can be considered a first for scientists, the group's study shows that a non-human brain can distinguish traits between two different languages.

“Some years ago I moved from Mexico to Hungary to join the Neuroethology of Communication Lab at the Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University for my postdoctoral research. My dog, Kun-kun, came with me. Before, I had only talked to him in Spanish. So I was wondering whether Kun-kun noticed that people in Budapest spoke a different language, Hungarian,” says study first author Laura Cuaya in a media release.

And Kun-kun apparently could.

Researchers took brain scans of Kun-kun, together with 17 other dogs while playing audio excerpts from “The Little Prince” in both Spanish and Hungarian. The dogs each heard one of the languages in their owner's voice. This is to see if their pets could see any difference between a "highly familiar" language compared to a foreign one. Scrambled versions of the book passages were also played to see if the dogs are aware of actual speech and non-speech sounds.

Here, they discovered distinct activity patterns in the dogs' primary auditory cortex. The patterns appeared regardless of the language or sounds the dogs heard. Moreover, their research also found that older dogs in the experiment were better at distinguishing languages.


“Dog brains, like human brains, can distinguish between speech and non-speech. But the mechanism underlying this speech detection ability may be different from speech sensitivity in humans: whereas human brains are specially tuned to speech, dog brains may simply detect the naturalness of the sound,” explains study co-author Raúl Hernández-Pérez.

"This study showed for the first time that a non-human brain can distinguish between two languages," senior author Attila Andics expresses. "Indeed, it is possible that the brain changes from the tens of thousands of years that dogs have been living with humans have made them better language listeners, but this is not necessarily the case. Future studies will have to find this out."

Well, maybe you have to train your pets those commands in both Tagalog and English then.

You can look up their findings in the journal NeuroImage.

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Bryle B. Suralta
Assistant Section Editor
Bryle B. Suralta is a Filipino cultural critic, editor, and essayist. He writes about art, books, travel, people, current events, and all the magic in between. His past work in film and media can be found on PeopleAsia Magazine, The Philippine Star, MANILA BULLETIN, and IMDB.
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