So far he has to master the phrases yet ‘Please may I have an extra bun, please?’ and ‘Eek, a mouse!’
But Koshik the elephant has started by learning to say five words with a human-like voice.
A 22-year-old male living in a Korean zoo puts the end of his trunk in his mouth, and instead of coming out as a small rumble, the sound matches the human speech in pitch and tone.
Last week, researchers in California told about a great white whale that liked to tell divers to get out of his pool. NoC, as his name suggests, also enjoys holding awkward ‘chats’ with himself. However, he only ‘talked’ for a few years.
In contrast, Koshik has been speaking Korean since August 2004, when he was 14 years old.
Sometimes he speaks when prompted, other times without any encouragement, the journal Current Biology reported.
Researcher Angela Stoeger, an expert in elephant communication, said: ‘Human speech has two important aspects, pitch and timbre.
‘Interestingly, Koshik has the ability to combine both. This is remarkable considering the anatomical differences between elephants and humans. ‘
Ms. Stoeger and her colleagues played recordings of Koshik’s calls to native Korean speakers to see if they could understand what he was saying.
“We found a high consensus on the overall meaning and even the Korean spelling of Koshik imitation,” said Ms. Stoeger.
Koshik, an Asian elephant, is thought to have learned to imitate human voices to bond with his trainers when he was raised alone for five years as a young animal.
His five words are spelt phonetically as annyong, anja, aniya, nuo and choah. They mean: hello, sit down, no, lie down and good.
Despite Koshik’s apparent ingenuity, scientists don’t think he really means what he said.
They added that he might not be the only pachyderm who has proven to be a good imitator. African elephants have been known to mimic the sounds of truck engines, while a male in a zoo in Kazakhstan was said to speak in both Russian and Kazakh. However, his abilities were never scientifically studied.