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.
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!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!