As though the true strange nature of comas wasn’t already an amazing source of controversy in the psychological field, one teen has awoken from a coma with a fluent understanding of German. This would not be unusual, except she was just barely beginning to study the language when she entered the coma.
What does the mind do when we sleep or are likewise incapacitated by a sudden illness? Is it possible this altered state of consciousness can actually accelerate learning in some capacities as the brain must focus on its memories rather than constantly taking in new stimulation? It seems even this explanation is not enough, considering the short period of the coma.
The girl, a resident of Knin had only scratched the surface of studying German a mere two weeks prior, but had been watching a great deal of German TV and films and had been attempting to read German books as well. Unfortunately, as is often the case with learning a new language the going was slow. And the girl, despite her diligence, was falling behind in her studies. When she suddenly grew ill and lost consciousness, however, she awoke and doctors were in for a serious shock when she started talking once again 24 hours later.
Doctors at the Split’s KB Hospital were shocked when the Croatian speaker awoke and began speaking to them in fluent German. The rare ailment had robbed her of her ability to speak her native tongue, but endowed her with an incredibly versatile and fluent German vocabulary.
“It’s incredible,” one German speaking nurse said of the girl, “Her accent is perfect and you’d think you were talking to a native speaker if you had just met her.” The ailment is so rare that quite a bit of attention has been paid to her during recovery from her ordeal. Experts in neurology have been called in to study the language the girl is speaking, and largely are flabbergasted as to what could have caused her affliction.
And though the case is incredible, it is not entirely unheard of. In 2007 a Czech teen was in a coma for 45 minutes. When he awoke, however, he shocked doctors with his ability to speak perfect English. Those who had been studying with him described his aptitude at the language as “basic at best,” but after the incident not only was his vocabulary near perfect, but his accent suggested a native speaker.
Far from believing this incident can be explained only as a miracle, experts have pointed to other cases where such a strange occurrence has happened in the past. In fact, even archaic languages such as ancient Babylonian or Egyptian have been documented after short comas. Is it there a simple explanation, or is something else at work here?
It’s estimated that the human mind records a considerable amount of information every moment, and can actually access this information when the brain undergoes a strange and unexplainable transformation. Is it possible that the brain can not only access this information, but actually put its focus on it in such a way that the language center can focus on a collection of memories that would normally be inaccessible? Perhaps this can tell us something about the way we process language in general.