Teaching Bongo Marie to be a Smart Arse
by Sally Blanchard

OK, I have a weird sense of humor. When Bongo Marie turned into an amazing and highly loquacious talker, I wanted her to be clever, use words in context, be responsive, have a sense of humor, and, I guess, to be a bit of a Smart Arse. 
 

Bongo Marie's cage was in the living room at the entrance to the kitchen so I had to walk past it to get almost anywhere in the house since the stairs to the finished basement where I worked were in the kitchen ... so was the sliding glass door to the back yard and the door to my garage workshop. She quickly learned my loud woodcarver’s extreme sneeze when I took off my mask and it sounded like she was yelling, “Wheatcha!”


Bongo loved the fact that I always said something to her as I walked 
by her cage. If I enunciated carefully and said the same expression, she would learn it quickly. I would also label just about everything in the house and situations for her so she learned a lot of the context of words. I would hear her practicing and had no idea what she was trying to say until I learned to listen to the cadence or rhythm in her voice instead of trying to pick out words. Once I figured out what she was trying to say, I could easily reinforce better pronunciation.

She learned new words and expressions just about every day and developed quite a vocabulary of questions. These included, "What's Goin' ON?" “What are you doing?” “Who do you think you are?” “Do you want this?” “What is it?” “Where ya going?” “How’s it goin’?” and “Are you talking to me?” Once she would ask me these questions clearly, I started to answer her with statements like, “None of your business” or “What’s it to you?” It would be just a matter of a few days before I would ask her “What are you doin’?” and she would reply, “None of your business!” I guess I turned her into a bit of a ‘smartass’ curmudgeon but it actually made her a lot more fun and my friends thought it was hysterical when she talked back to me! So did I!


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