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p.p1 imitation. Things which are seen tend to

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One of the first  successful attempts to teach language to primates comes from Allen and Beatrice Gardner, who fostered Washoe, a chimpanzee, who was brought from West Africa to Nevada where she eventually learned over 350 words in the American Sign Language. It is worth noting that she was taught exclusively in ASL, and the Gardners actively avoided using vocal English in her presence. The rationale for this was that the vocal communications of apes was too closely tied to their emotional state. Also, their vocalisations seemed unsuitable for human language. They also believed that ASL and the spoken English language could not be taught at the same time, due to syntactical and grammatical differences. They argue that, “Attempting to speak good English while simultaneously signing good ASL is about as difficult as attempting to speak good English while simultaneously writing good Russian.” Furthermore, they realised that since deaf human children used sign language, they could study the speed at which the chimpanzees acquired the new language, in comparison to the way human children do. The introduction of sign language to their endeavours enhanced the project drastically. In about 51 months, Washoe had learned how to sign over 130 signs. 
The Gardners used a combination of methods to teach Washoe. One of those methods was imitation. They note that for the chimpanzee, visual stimuli were the most effective for imitation. Things which are seen tend to reproduced. What is heard is not reproduced. They write, “Imitation may be very important in the acquisition of language by human children, and many of our procedures with Washoe were devised to capitalize on it.” They also used babbling, where she expressed her wants through signs not previously taught to her. Instrumental conditioning strategies also proved effective. For example, Washoe learned the word ‘more’, when tickling was used as positive reinforcement. 
The Washoe case turned out to be successful, as she learned spontaneous naming, generalisation of terms to fit non-specific stimuli, as well as spontaneous combinations and recombinations of signs in an original way. 
Many hail Washoe as a breakthrough project that created significant impact in the field of animal research as well as helped understand language acquisition for both human beings and animals. However, the project was not completely free of criticism. Herbert Terrace, a researcher who tried a similar project with a primate, Nim Chimpsky, seems to think that the Washoe experiment was overstated, and involves less rigorous data collection and analysis and more anecdotal observational references. According to him, while apes could potentially learn many isolated symbols for various words, he finds no evidence that unequivocally supports that they could learn the semantic, conversational or syntactical parts of language. This is an important point to consider when one questions whether the attempt to teach human language to another species was successful, as these are important to language. Furthermore, the problem with any case study is that it is difficult to prove whether the results can be generalised to other situations. However, other successful case studies with chimpanzees like Lana, Kanzi, Koko (name date name date name date) help strengthen the Gardner’s case, making it more reliable. 

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