Though I’ve mentioned many times how much I adore birds and doodlewashing them, were I ever to have one as a pet, a little parakeet, or budgie, would be my first choice. Not every parrot can imitate human speech, but these little guys can. The idea that you can teach them various words, up to around 100 or more actually, is fascinating to me. This one, I believe, is actually a Quaker parrot, which is equally small and apparently has a very pleasing voice that’s much clearer than larger parrots. I’ve not done much research on parrots, but merely entranced by the idea of a pet that could talk. That said, should my own bark-less basenji, Phineas, ever start actually talking to me it would certainly give me a fright. Not the talking bit, but I’m rather sure what he might say would begin and end in a tirade of the poor service in his restaurant. He’s never happy that he’s not served his own plate of whatever we’re eating and typically sneezes to express his displeasure. Were he actually able to speak, I’ve no idea what sort of verbal tirade would ensue. Perhaps that’s why I dream of a bird that only says what you can teach it. That extra bit of control seems like a winning idea indeed.

Thinking about actually owning a parrot made me wonder just what 100 words I would teach it to say. While that number sounds large when printed, each of these posts are over 700 words, so my poor little parakeet wouldn’t be able to make it past the first paragraph without stuttering. I would assume I would try to teach him words I’d like to hear repeated most. This made me think about exactly what those words might be. I’m sure words like hope, love, and creativity would definitely make the list. To me, this is the very definition of art itself. But, I was at a loss for the other words and phrases I might teach. Perhaps, that’s because I’m soon heading back to Paris where I still don’t speak the language properly. I try to parrot as best I can, but I still lack all of the knowledge and skill required to be considered remotely fluent, or often, even understandable. Tonight, I insisted that Philippe speak to me in French and give me things to say. One would think this would happen all of the time, but when we’re here in America, we simply speak English to one another. And Philippe is a strict teacher, so I’m rather certain I’ve never said anything perfectly yet to his taste. Instead, I just look for the signal that whatever I said was “understandable, yet cutely accented,” which produces a smile on his face and is currently the only bar I set myself when it comes to the French language.

In many ways, I wish I possessed the immaculate mimicry of a parrot. It would make my binational lifestyle far more comfortable. In truth, I’m a bit of a blunder when it comes to communicating in other languages. While I can read them with aplomb, my pronunciation leaves so much to be desired that, in the end, I’m like a little bird just trying to figure it all out. In my mind, I can actually see the word spelled out before me, but I lack the ability to pronounce it in a way that elicits perfect comprehension. Much of this is due to my own insecurities and inability to simply burst forward with unrivaled confidence. What I realized while chatting with Philippe in my perfectly flawed French was that I know more than I think I do. I’ve acquired more knowledge than I’m able to reproduce in action. While I’m wildly imperfect in everything I attempt to say, I can actually say something very close to what was intended. It may not be understood by the masses, but it’s not completely incorrect. It’s a close approximation that gets better each and every day. And I’ll continue to improve by watching the masters speak, learning a bit along the way, eventually hoping that I might one day learn to effortlessly reproduce things like what the parrot says.

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About the Doodlewash

Da Vinci Paint Co.:  Aureolin, Vermillion, Cobalt Turquoise, Cobalt Blue, and Terra Cotta. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Day 8 - Parrot Watercolor Illustration - Sketchbook Detail - Doodlewash

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24 thoughts on “What The Parrot Says

  1. Passive versus active knowledge – it’ll get ya every time! Language is such a funny thing, breath groups, slang, positions in which to hold the tongue. I don’t think you can ever ‘learn’ a language. You have to soak it up like a napkin in water so that it’s part of you. I love your parakeet and have to laugh at what Phineas reaction would be if you did bring one home. Even if he couldn’t talk, I think he would make his feelings perfectly clear

    1. Thanks, Sandra! 😃💕haha! So true, Phineas has become at master as ways to share his displeasure even when no sounds are involved. And I agree on language… I have an audio course that’s more like that. Just soaking things up like a sponge, which is still the way I tend to learn things today. I’m not a step by step sort of guy… just wanna jump in an swim a bit! 😊

  2. Interesting. I think you should get your little niece to teach you. More patience, more forgiving, and less likely to laugh at you. I had four years of high school Spanish and in the end got the booby prize for most likely to show up for class! I have no talent for languages at all.

    I always wanted a parrot. Hubs says no. Too loud, too messy, too vulnerable to cats. So that dream went the way of my need for chickens, goats, and a turtle. I make Joe sound like an ogre. He really isnt. He’s doing my laundry even as I write this. He just has a realistic eye when it comes to my pet choices. We have four cats, and I can have all the plants and gold fish I want.

    1. hehe! Yes, my niece has been enrolled by her mother to teach me French. I do think it will be less quarrelsome that attempting the same with my husband. lol Can’t wait! 😃💕Yeah, your Joe sounds like my other half… the voice of reason that can be so irritating when you want something, but is precisely why we’re with them in the first place! lol 😉

  3. Oh my gosh, what a cute little bird marching along! Your description of learning French made me laugh. I would slaughter it. There are words in the English language I have a hard time pronouncing and I was born and raised here. Lol! It also reminded me of your podcast regarding “cobbler”. That was too funny. Who would think one word could have so many interpretations.

    1. hehe! Yep… soooooo many interpretations, pronunciations, and such. I’m rubbish at all of it, but apparently Philippe tells me that the fact that I meekly say “Bonjour!” and smile goes a long way there. At least his family seems to really like me anyway! 😊

  4. I much prefer birds that sing, rather than speak! Parrots, in particular, I find annoying and mildly creepy. I appreciate your efforts at learning French. I was an outstanding French student in high school and college, but I could never produce the sounds correctly. Still, I had fun speaking to locals in Quebec and in France, most of whom regarded me with amused smiles.

    1. Yeah, I get those same smiles! lol 😊I actually know a lot of the words and can understand what’s being said much of the time. But my ability to pronounce them correctly is rather shotty. Hmmm… I actually think if I tried singing the words I might have a better shot!

    1. Thanks, Mary! 😃💕 So true! If I ever have a parrot I will make sure that DO is the first word it ever learns! And yes, I get much better with French when I’m there. Understanding is off the charts, but I get a D grade still for my pronunciation.

  5. Oh so fun! Let’s teach the parrot “peace” as in peace to you and “kind” as in let’s be kind to one another. And let’s do it in French too 😉💜

    1. Yay to that, Jodi! Love it! 😃💕I think everyone should have those lovely words swimming around in their head. Peace and kind. Paix et gentil. (yeah, if I spoke the latter I would totally butcher it, so wow it’s fun to type! 😊)

  6. Great post Charlie. My budgie Aussie ( I painted ) can say about 30 words. He speaks in a different voice depending on what he’s saying. “Pesky bird” sounds just like my hubby and ” beautiful baby bird from down under” sounds like me! I think you should be commended for your French. Mine is appalling but I have a try at any language whenever we go on holidays as I think it’s only polite!

    1. Thanks, Eve! 😃💕 Your budgie sounds amazing!! I want one! And yeah, I think it’s only polite to at least attempt the language of the country you’re visiting. I’ve always done it. But weirdly, I’m better in every country than the one I now have family. 😊lol

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