Chen Rao, of Ilam School, asks :-

Why can people talk but animals can't?

Alexander Davies, a physiologist at Massey University, responded.

Humans can certainly talk! We make speech with organs similar to those possessed by many other animals, and learn to make a wonderfully diverse range of sounds, at the same time learning to understand what they mean. It is no use speaking if nobody understands you. And human speech is not only words: it can be music, or a powerful tool of persuasion.

But why do we think that "dumb beasts of the field" can't talk? Simply because we can't understand what they say. Some animals use notes that we can't hear. Others use cues like sight and smell in combination with sound that only the most skilled human observers of nature ever learn to appreciate.

If you were a bird, you'd know where all your friends were across many kilometres of forest, and what they were doing. If you were a Humpback whale, you'd sing songs over a thousand kilometres of ocean, and could do this millions of years before telephones were invented. If you were a lamb, you'd recognise your mum's voice in the middle of a big crowd.

Like all these animals, you learnt to talk without going to school. Perhaps we are almost as clever as animals after all!