How Are Chimpanzees Taught to “Speak”?

The chimpanzee, the most intelligent of all animals besides man, is even more clever than scientists had once thought. Trained chimps have shown that they can be taught to use a form of silent language to “speak” with their trainers.

First, the chimps learned symbols for a number of simple words. These symbols were contained on marked tokens. For instance, the chimps learned that by handing to their trainer a token marked with a circle, they would receive a banana.

Other markings represented other words. Before long, the chimps were constructing their own “sentences” by placing a group of tokens in a certain order. What did the chimps have to say? Mostly simple things, like “I want banana now.”

These chimps even learned how to operate a vending machine. They were taught that certain tokens placed in a slot would produce a piece of fruit. The chimps soon began to hoard their tokens, and even fought among themselves over the “coins”!