I just read something on the internet. Again. Where I usually go, on CNN.com, bless their informative hearts. About rats being bilingual.

What the hell?

Rats? Bilingual? There are HUMANS that can't manage to be bilingual, but rats are? That.is.just. wrong.

But beyond my shock at this amazing find is the thought that rolled through my head next….

What genius decided to SEE IF RATS COULD BE BILINGUAL? Well, His name is Juan, for starters. Imagine the lab conversation between two scientists, hmmm? Juan says: "Hey Jorge! I've been thinking…. I wonder if Mickey, this little rat here, or Speedy, the other one, could possibly be bilingual. I've got 62 other male rats we could play with right over here! Why don't we actually DO A STUDY? Wouldn't that be so damn cool?"

Jorge replies: "Yes Juan, just as soon as I take another hit of CRACK, lets do a study to see if they communicate in different languages. I mean, who needs to find a cure for AIDS or Cancer anyway? Let's check out the rats communication skills! YEEAH!"

Juan: "How about we try, oh say, Dutch and Japanese?"
Jorge: "Muy Bien AMIGO!"

And they went on to do scientific studies of the male rats. (Why no females, fellas?) Look at what they did:

The rats were trained to respond to either Dutch or Japanese using food as a reward

Well, DUH! HELLO???????????? These were ADULT MALE RATS. OF course you could get them to respond for food as a reward. It probably would have worked just as well if you had also showed them rat porn or PLAYRAT as a reward. Give me a break.

Next they will probably check the females and reward them with, oh I don't know, shoes? Pretty jewelry? Very expensive handbags? (Hee heee)

Isn't it nice to know that rats are ranked right up there with humans and monkeys?

Actually, it's kind of depressing.

I suppose next they will say Lizards are bilingual too. Ugh.


Indigo Wolf said...

You silly woman. ;o) Rats are actually very smart animals. I know a lot of people are grossed out by them ( my husband included) but some of my closest friends have pet rats. They are such sweet animals, they really are. One of them recently died and it really was cuter than the average rat. Anyway, my cousin, when he had a pet rat as a kid taught his rat how to play Mary Had a Little Lamb on the piano by rubbing cheese on the piano keyes. So I'm not suprised that they can understand more than one langurage. Most animals probably could. Your kitties understand both persian and english, right? My deaf and hard of hearing family members understand both sign language and spoken english.

So here's my Q for the week: What makes you so freaked out by these sweet little creatures (and repltiles too, for that matter)?

PS: Did I mention that when I was little my brother gave me a lizard for a birthday present? And I loved it?

-Carrie Jo

DaShan said...

Actually, if you read the original article, you would discover that the researchers did not report that rats could understand Dutch and Japanese. Rather, what they found was that rats could be trained (through food reinforcement) to discriminate between short sentences spoken in the two languages. Moreover, they transfered this discrimination to novel sentences in these two languages. However, the rats could not transfer their discrimination to sentences in these two languages spoken backwards.

This finding suggests that there are physical aspects to human speach that are different in different languages. The Japanese or Dutch sentence played backwards contains exactly the same physical stimulus as it does when played forwards. All that has changed is the temporal order of the sounds. The fact that this had a dramatic effect on the rat's (and a human's) ability to discriminate between these languages indicates that timing cues are very important in defining the characteristics of a language.