The ability of a parrot to mimic human speech accurately has to be the main reason why parrots are popular as pets. Whenever somebody new comes to our home, one of the first questions of our African Grey parrot is “Does he talk?" “Of course he does", I reply, “some days he hardly stops!"
So how do you train a parrot to talk? Firstly it comes down to the type of parrot. Some species will learn far more readily. Some African Greys are reputed to have a vocabulary of 2,000 words. Others, including parakeets, will hardly utter a word however long you spend teaching them. Individual birds will also vary, some just do not seem predisposed to a conversation with their owners.
The younger you can start training a parrot to talk, the easier it will be. You can start once your bird has been tamed. Training will be frustrating and ineffective if you parrot is not comfortable in your presence.
Often, your parrot will start to mimic common phrases heard inside your home without specific training. Unfortunately they are more likely to imitate words or phrases shouted or said with emotion. If this is the case you may want to be careful what you say around your parrots since he will be just as happy to repeat swearwords as anything else.
Start training your parrot to talk with a couple of 15 minutes sessions a day. Any longer than this and both you and he will become bored. Make sure he is calm and there are no distractions.
Start with something simple like “hello" or “how are you?". You will have to repeat the phrase many times at first. Once you get some sort of response, praise your parrot and give him a treat of his favorite food. It will only be a little noise at first but be sure to offer him a treat every time he tries. After a few attempts it will become much closer to the sound of your voice. It may take two weeks or longer for even a talented bird, so don't give up hope. Less talented birds may take several weeks or even months. The first word or phrase always takes a long time but subsequent words will come very quickly. Once he has the first couple of words, he will often pick up new words with only 2 or 3 training sessions.
It's a good idea to have a certain phrase at each time of day. For example, mine will happily call out “Good morning!" when I come downstairs in the morning since this is the phrase I used during the morning training session before work.
Good luck with training your parrot to talk!
For more advice on choosing, taming and training parrots visit Taming and Training Parrots at http://training-parrots.blogspot.com