What Would You Do if You Woke Up Speaking a Foreign Language?

A couple weeks ago 16-year-old Reuben Nsemoh was kicked in the head while playing goalie for his travel soccer team when he sustained a severe concussion, his third concussion in his short life. Three days later he awoke speaking fluent Spanish. It’s not unheard of, but very rare.

When he was younger his friends would speak to him in Spanish and many feel this influenced the situation.

“My friends would always talk to me in Spanish and would teach me,” Reuben said.

It seems that if one area of the brain is damaged, then another part of the brain assumes responsibility for its former functions. For example, people suffering strokes may lose the use of a hand or leg for a short time as the brain readjusts itself. Sometimes the actual process of brain “rewiring” after an accident or illness can become confused, resulting in unusual behavior patterns within patients.

The phenomenon known as foreign language syndrome falls clearly within that bracket. Foreign language syndrome occurs after a serious accident or injury to the brain which renders victims unconscious. When the patients come around they find themselves talking in completely different languages that they weren’t able to speak prior to the incident. This may continue for only a temporary period; alternative, but some patients may find themselves speaking this completely new language for a prolonged period of time.

Other examples:

In April 2012, a 17-year-old Malaysian student involved in a motorbike accident emerged from unconsciousness speaking four new languages: Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indonesian. In what was considered to be an extreme form of this syndrome, the language changed on a daily basis, lasting for several hours at a time.

In a bizarre twist on the theme of foreign language syndrome, a Croatian girl woke up from a coma speaking fluent German. As this was her second language, it was not a particular surprise. What was intriguing was the fact that she was no longer able to speak Croatian, which was her first language. Her ability to speak her native language had somehow been inhibited through her accident.

In a third example, a Czech speedway driver who had just begun learning to speak English came to after a motorbike crash speaking fluent English to the astonishment of his friends, especially as there was no trace of an accent. Later he could speak to an English reporter only through an interpreter.

If you could speak a different language, what would you do with the new found talent?

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One thought on “What Would You Do if You Woke Up Speaking a Foreign Language?

  1. Ooooh, what a great opportunity to move to that country and begin a new life! I would most definitely CELEBRATE my newfound language ability. Write a book in that language, engage others that speak it. Be overwhelmed in joy, even do a TED talk in that new language. I’m ready, bring it on.

    Liked by 1 person

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