Francophone Siberian tiger to be taught English

OTTAWA, May 30, 2007 (AFP) – Everyone likes the sound of French it seems, and a zoo in western Canada has asked visitors to speak French to its Siberian tiger. “We hope people will come to the zoo and speak French to him to keep him company,” said Jan Archbold, a spokeswoman for the Edmonton Valley Zoo.

She said the cat “seems to enjoy hearing French” — despite being a Siberian tiger named Boris.

“When our zoo keepers tried to speak to him in English, he obviously didn’t understand what they were trying to tell him, so he remained indifferent,” Archbold explained.

Boris arrived at the zoo in May 2006, but did not respond until recently, when the zoo’s sole French-speaking staffer spoke to him in French.

A simple “bonjour” and Boris came right over.

“He had been raised by francophones, so the commands that he understood were in French,” she said.

Boris, who will be eight years old in August, was raised in captivity in francophone Quebec province, and so does not understand English commands.

About 200,000 out of 2.9 million Albertans speak French, according to the latest 2001 census. For 58,000 of them, French is their first