Crash Victim Awakes Speaking a Foreign Language

Azulejo 21

Things like this catch my eye and I thought it would be in keeping with the learn Portuguese section of the site to post more information regarding the art and science of learning a language.

My degree was in English and part of that course was devoted to linguistics. Perhaps it was simply because I loved to read that I had a natural inclination towards understanding the nuts and bolts of language.  Also I am powerfully motivated to communicate – through music and song and through words (and my friends will tell you through talking too!). Therefore when news such as the following arises, it fascinates me.

18 year old Matej Kus was knocked unconscious for 45 minutes after a motorbike accident in the Czech Republic. When he awoke he spoke perfect English, including having a perfect English accent! Apparently he had been learning English prior to the accident but his knowledge and ability had been basic at best. For two days he spoke in English before returning to his native tongue with no memory of those two days.

The full story is here

It’s a fascinating phenomenon. Luckily Matej has recovered and is now back to studying English but it suggests that his mind had already absorbed a vast amount of information whilst he studied English. Perhaps he had a natural photo reading ability yet had not developed the techniques of recall.

I’ve often wondered whether every word I have ever seen – indeed, everything I have ever seen has been stored away in my memory. Just because I can’t remember it, doesn’t mean to say it isn’t there. I’m sure we’ve all had that experience when a nugget of information suddenly floats up from apparently nowhere.

I know for example I’ve dreamed in Portuguese, Spanish, Hindi and Irish. I did a beginners courses in Spanish and Irish many years ago but I don’t know a single word of Hindi – yet perhaps some part of my mind does. In my Portuguese dreams, sometimes it is very literal and I am going through words and phrases I know. At other times I am completely fluent and I am no doubt that I know this language completely. Maybe it’s this that motivates me with my studies. Often I feel as though I am looking for a way to remember rather than a way to learn.

I can remember many years ago being at a friend’s 21st birthday party. We had all had rather too much alcohol and my friend was making it a night to remember. He proceeded to talk in French to me for several hours. He was certainly better than my almost non-existant French  but not as fluent in a less inebriated state. What’s more, the flow of alcohol did seem to unlock what little I had learned in French, which turned out to be more than I have ever since recalled!

I noticed a discussion board comment recently where the writer told of how they had suddenly started speaking their target language fluently after many years of struggling. The trick was they were in the middle of a very heated argument with a native speaker! It seems the heat of the moment, the emotional overload caused the brain to trip out the blocks to recall. The writer found that they were fluently arguing without any hesitation and they have since found they can speak easily.

There are many mysteries to be answered regarding language acquisition and learning a second language and I hope to explore further some of these ideas here.

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