English-speaking Teen Wakes Up from Coma Speaking Fluent Spanish

December 25, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. coma / ˈkoʊ mə / (n.) – a state in which a person is unconscious for a long time and not able to respond to stimuli
Example: He was in a coma for two weeks.

2. concussion / kənˈkʌʃ ən / (n.) – an injury to the brain or spinal cord that makes someone become unconscious temporarily 
Example: She suffered a concussion after falling off the building.

3. unconscious / ʌnˈkɒn ʃəs / (adj.) – not awake, usually because of injury or medication
Example: He became unconscious after hitting his head.

4. regain / riˈgeɪn / (v.) – to get back or recover something that you lost
Example: It took him a few months of medication to regain his health.

5. review / rɪˈvyu / (v.) – to inspect or investigate something
Example: The doctor reviewed his medical records to see what really happened to him.


Read the text below.
An English-speaking teenager from Atlanta has reportedly woken up from a coma speaking fluent Spanish.

Sixteen-year-old Reuben Nsemoh / ˈru bən ɛnˈsɛm oʊ / ended up in a coma after suffering from a severe concussion while playing soccer. According to Nsemoh’s parents, he could already speak some Spanish before the incident, but he was never fluent in the language. However, when he woke up after days of being unconscious, Nsemoh was able to speak the language fluently. Strangely, the boy struggled with English, his native language. 

However, the strange condition did not last long. After a few weeks, Nsemoh started to regain his ability to speak English. His Spanish skills also began to fade.

While Nsemoh’s experience seems extraordinary, he is not the only one to experience the condition. In 2012, Ben McMahon / bɛn məkˈmæn / from Australia woke up from a coma speaking only Mandarin.  Like Nsemoh, he had only a basic knowledge of the language. It took him a few days to remember how to speak in his native language again.

Scientists are still uncertain on how this condition happens, but a neuroscientist who reviewed McMahon’s case has a possible explanation. According to him, the condition may be caused by damage in the part of the brain that controls the person’s native language. While the brain is recovering from this damage, only the part of the brain that controls the second language becomes activated, causing a person to appear fluent in this language.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         What would you do if you woke up suddenly speaking a different language?
·         How can people who experience this condition make the most out of it?

Discussion B

·         How would you communicate if you cannot speak the common language?
·         In your opinion, what should be the common language in the world? Discuss your reasons. 

December 25, 2016