An Asian elephant named Koshik can speak exactly five words in Korean that can be readily understood by those who know the language. The elephant accomplishes this in a most unusual way: he vocalizes with his trunk in his mouth.

The words include “annyong” (“hello”), “anja” (“sit down”), “aniya” (“no”), “nuo” (“lie down”), and “choah” (“good”). While cool on their own, Koshik’s language skills may also provide important insights into the biology and evolution of complex vocal learning, an ability that is critical for human speech and music, the researchers say. 

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