New Study Reveals That Dogs Understand Foreign Languages

Hayden Katz Animals /
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As human beings, we are able to easily notice when a person is either speaking our mother tongue or a foreign language. Now, research has shown that our dogs are also capable of this ability. Here's what recent brain scans show.

Hungarian researchers have studied the brains of canines to get a better understanding of how they process information. Laura Cuaya, a postdoctoral researcher, was inspired to conduct the study after she moved from Mexico to Hungary with her dog, named Kun-kun. This led to her becoming curious about whether or not her pup "noticed that people in Budapest talk a different language." Cuaya then began her own study, which included dogs aged 3-11, all of who had previously learned how to not move during an MRI scan. There were five golden retrievers, six border collies, two Australian shepherds, one labradoodle, one cocker spaniel, and three mixed breeds. Out of all 18 canines, 16 were familiar with Hungarian, and the last two understood Spanish.

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"We found that they know more than I expected about human language," Cuaya noted. "Certainly, this ability to be constant social learners gives them an advantage as a species — it gives them a better understanding of their environment." Based on a report published in NeuroImage, it was also found that certain areas of the animal's brains were active depending on what language they were hearing. The two areas - the secondary auditory cortex and the pre-cruciate gyrus - have both been associated with understanding the meaning of a specific test heard, regardless of the fact that it was positive or negative.

The results that were found at the Neuroethology of Communication Lab at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, also indicated that dogs who were older had significantly different responses than younger ones. The research assumed this may be because they have spent more years hearing their native languages. “As many owners already know, dogs are social beings interested in what is happening in their social world,” said Cuaya. “Our results show that dogs learn from their social environments, even when we don’t teach them directly. So, just continue involving your dogs in your family, and give them opportunities to continue learning.”