In 2010, a Croatian teenager awoke from a coma to discover she could no longer speak Croatian but was fluent in German, a language she had just recently begun studying at school in the United Kingdom. reports in the press
According to the United Kingdom, a thirteen-year-old girl from the southern town of Knin has been able to understand Croatian after a bizarre 24-hour coma. According to the sources, she can only respond in German and needs a translator to interact with her family.
Dujomir Marasovic, the director of Firule Hospital in Split, where the girl is being treated, refuses to disclose any additional information about her case, citing a desire to safeguard her privacy.
Though physicians say it's doubtful that the girl's German improved as a result of her coma, lost language and strange speech alterations are more common than one may expect.
The team enlisted the help of neurologists and language experts to comment on these unusual linguistic occurrences.
Foreign Accent Syndrome
Foreign Accent Syndrome is one such rare but well-documented speech disorder. After a stroke or other type of brain trauma, people with this illness will often be unable to talk, and when they do, their voices will have a foreign accent.
Their new accent might sound French, Chinese, Slavic, or any other nationality, but it's not really an accent.
According to Regina Jokel, a speech-language pathologist in Toronto, this issue is "really a speech impediment that makes them seem 'foreign,'" albeit the "origin" of the accent is often in the listener's ear.
According to Dr. Gregory O'Shanick, president and medical director of the Center for Neurorehabilitation Services in Virginia, the problem isn't a newly acquired accent, but a disruption in the patient's ability to construct words.
The situation of the Croatian teen, on the other hand, is a little more perplexing because she is said to have switched languages. Though her health is unknown, scientists believe her injury has something to do with impairment to the brain's language producing regions.
Waking Up German
"These kinds of events are infrequent so being able to really study them in a consistent way is difficult," O'Shanick says, "but there are cases where persons learning a second language will be better able to speak that language post-injury."
According to him, this shift is due to the distinct locations in the brain where linguistic knowledge is stored.
While the information that allows one to talk in one's native tongue is stored on the left side of the brain, O'Shanick claims that the ability to speak a second language is primarily derived from the right side.
A second (or third, or fourth) language learned in early childhood will be preserved alongside the first, according to Jokel, while languages gained later in life will be stored somewhere else.
As a result, when trauma leads to enhanced memory of the second language, O'Schanick speculates that they may have suffered a brain injury to the left side.
In a similar example reported in the United Kingdom, a Czech race car driver regained consciousness after a crash and spoke only English to the rescuers — with a British accent, no less. However, this was only a brief impact, and he quickly resumed using his native Czech.
"When a brain injury happens, such as from a car accident, a stroke, a tumor, or other reasons," Jokel explains, "certain parts of the network may be preserved while others are temporarily or irreparably destroyed."
"It's not typical, but it's not unheard of for a multilingual person to lose one language totally or partially while retaining another."
Many doctors are skeptical about the Croatian instance.
"This would have been looked to as a miracle in past times," said Dr. Mijo Milas, a mental expert engaged in the teen's case. press. "We like to believe that there must be a logical explanation somewhere; we just haven't discovered it yet."