From the March 2010 EL Gazette
A dog brought in to the Royal Society for Prevention of Animals (RPSPCA) centre in Oldham near Manchester, England, has made good progress in a course of English lessons. Workers initially thought the dog, a male border collie named Cent, was deaf, because he didn’t respond to commands. But tests showed his hearing was good. Puzzled RSPCA workers consulted their records on Cent, and found that he had been brought to the RSPCA by a local Polish family who could no longer care for him. As one animal care assistant recalled, ‘It was only a few days later when it dawned on us that he must be used to hearing commands in Polish.’
A look at the internet provided Cent’s handlers with a list of Polish commands, and they went back to get help from the family that originally brought Cent in for help with Polish pronunciation.
Once Cent started responding to Polish commands, staff started teaching him to react to basic commands in English in a ‘reward-based’ programme. Within four months, Cent is now bilingual and ready to be found a home.
Oldham RSPCA recall they once took in a cat from an Asian family, ‘which had Asian owners and only responded to commands in their (unspecified) native tongue.’ (Although the Gazette is unaware of any cats giving much of a response to commands in any language.) See the September 2008 Gazette for gorillas arriving at a Valencia zoo who needed to be spoken to in English after they’d lived in zoos in France and Germany.