Cockatiels generally love to communicate, but they learn from repetition. This means that while your bird may never be able to wax philosophical or debate politics with you, with a little training he'll be every bit as talkative and sociable as you are yourself.
Socialize with your bird only when you are in a good mood. Cockatiels are very perceptive when it comes to human body language and emotion, and if you aren't focused and positive, he won't want to hang out or listen to you.
Start focusing on simple, repeatable vocalizations when your cockatiel is about 6 months old. This is the age at which most birds pick up the ability and the tendency to mimic what they hear. When you're just getting started, make a simple whistling noise when you perform a specific action. For example, make the same whistle every time you approach the cage or feed your bird. Eventually, he will learn this whistle and repeat it when you perform the action. Lavish him with praise, and he will understand that mimicking yields rewards.
Take your cockatiel to a distraction-free environment when you want to teach him words and phrases. For example, allow him to perch on you and take him to a room without windows, other pets or street noise. While he watches you, repeat the word or phrase you want him to learn. If you want to teach him to associate this phrase with something, you must consistently use the object while teaching. For example, if you want him to say "Treat, please," say the phrase yourself every time you give him a treat. Always speak slowly and enunciate clearly, and only focus on one phrase at a time.
End your repetition session after about 10 minutes, and practice every day.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.