Listen&Learn: Koko the Gorilla

Jaksyn Peacock
Learn about the gorilla who used sign language to communicate.

Pre-listening vocabulary

  • sign language: a type of language where gestures are used instead of spoken words
  • psychologist: someone who studies the mind
  • invent: to make something up
  • express: to communicate your thoughts and feelings
  • skeptic: someone who doubts that something is true

Listening activity

Gapfill exercise

Koko was a famous who could communicate using sign language. She was born in 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo in California. In 1972, a psychologist named Francine Patterson began to Koko some basic signs. Over time, Koko developed a of over 1,000 signs, and she was able to over 2,000 spoken words. She even invented some signs of her own. Patterson insisted that Koko could express her through language. However, some skeptics believed that Patterson was looking for meaning that wasn’t really there. Koko died in 2018, but her accomplishments have caused many people to wonder if humans can learn to speak with animals.

Comprehension questions

1. Koko was born

Correct! Wrong!

Koko was born at a zoo.

2. Koko could understand

Correct! Wrong!

Koko could understand over 2,000 spoken words.

3. Patterson insisted that

Correct! Wrong!

Patterson insisted that Koko was able to express her emotions through language.

Discussion/essay questions

  1. Some people believe that language is a skill only humans can learn. They often argue that Koko didn’t really understand language, and she simply learned to copy the signs that her trainers taught her. What do you think? Could animals really use and understand language?

Transcript

Koko was a famous gorilla who could communicate using sign language. She was born in 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo in California. In 1972, a psychologist named Francine Patterson began to teach Koko some basic signs. Over time, Koko developed a vocabulary of over 1,000 signs, and she was able to understand over 2,000 spoken words. She even invented some signs of her own. Patterson insisted that Koko could express her emotions through language. However, some skeptics believed that Patterson was looking for meaning that wasn’t really there. Koko died in 2018, but her accomplishments have caused many people to wonder if humans can learn to speak with animals.

Written and recorded by Jaksyn Peacock for EnglishClub
© EnglishClub.com

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