The Parrot Experiment

1996, experimental intervention, Martin Widerberg, Joachim Stein

From October 1995 to May 1996 Joachim Stein and Martin Widerberg taught German to one of the parrots in the palmhouse of Gothenburg’s Gardening Society.

Deutschstunde

Deutschstunde

The palmhouse is located in a well visited park in the center of the city. The entrance fee for the park and the palmhouse is 40 kronor, there are season tickets for both, too. The speaking parrot is well-known in Gothenburg.

Starting in october Stein and Widerberg visited the palmhouse regularly, sometimes daily and talked to the parrot, who usually welcomes visitors enthusiastically, in German. They documented his progress with sound recordings. After a couple of weeks , the parrot sometimes shouted German words instead of his usual Swedish discourse of welcome when visitors approached. Over the 8 month period the parrots Swedish vocabulary was increasingly replaced by a German vocabulary and by May 96 not a single Swedish word could be recorded. It seemed that the flood of German words he had been exposed to, had erased his Swedish.