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  • Croatian teenager awakes from coma speaking German

    Girl Loses Native Language After Coma, Picks up German

    Croatian Teen's Language Swap Baffles Doctors

    A Croatian teenager awoke from a coma last week to find she could no longer speak in her native Croatian -- but was fluent in German, a language she had just started studying in school, the U.K. press reports.

    Following a mysterious 24-hour coma, the thirteen-year-old girl from the southern town of Knin has been able to understand Croatian, according to the U.K. press. She can only respond in German and requires a translator to communicate with her family, the stories said.

    Dujomir Marasovic, director of Firule Hospital in Split where the girl is being treated, declined to provide further details about the girl's case, saying he wishes to protect her privacy.

    Though doctors say it's unlikely that the girl's German actually improved because of the coma, instances of lost language and bizarre changes in speech are more common than one may think. ABC News.
    Waking Up German

    "These kinds of events are infrequent so being able to really study them in a consistent way is difficult," says O'Shanick, but there are "situations where people learning a second language will be better able to speak that language post-injury."

    This shift has to do with the different places in the brain where language knowledge is stored, he says.

    While information to let one speak in one's native tongue is stored on the left side of the brain, the ability to speak a second language predominantly comes from the right side, O'Shanick says.

    As long as a second (or third, or fourth) language is mastered in early childhood, it will be stored in the same place as the first, Jokel adds, but languages learned later in life will be stored elsewhere.

    So when trauma results in better recall of the second language, it may be that they had an injury to the left side of the brain, O'Schanick says.

    In a similar case reported in the U.K., a Czech race car driver regained consciousness after a crash and was speaking only in English -- with a British accent, no less -- to the paramedics. This effect was temporary however, and he regained the use of his native Czech soon after.

    "When a trauma to the brain occurs -- due to a car accident or a stroke, tumor, or other causes -- some parts of the network may be spared while some others temporarily or irreversibly damaged," Jokel says.

    "It is not very common, but certainly not unusual for a multilingual person to lose, completely or partially, one language but retain another."

    As for the Croatian case, many doctors have their doubts.

    "In earlier times this would have been referred to as a miracle," Dr. Mijo Milas, a psychiatric expert involved in the teen's case told the U.K. press. "We prefer to think that there must be a logical explanation -- it's just that we haven't found it yet." ABC News.
    This is pretty interesting, I'm thinking it's a phenomenon the doctors really don't have an explanation for.
    |TG-X| mp40x



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  • #2
    Re: Croatian teenager awakes from coma speaking German

    To this day the human body still amazes me. But can you imagine being her? Waking up to find out you can only speak another language. It must be so frustrating.

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    • #3
      Re: Croatian teenager awakes from coma speaking German

      That's incredible. Must be pretty scary for the girl though.
      |TG-Irr| westyfield

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      • #4
        Re: Croatian teenager awakes from coma speaking German

        Originally posted by mp40x View Post
        This is pretty interesting, I'm thinking it's a phenomenon the doctors really don't have an explanation for.
        They might not have a specific explanation of the mechanism, but they can say: "Head trauma can cause alterations in behavior including use of language to one they also have experience with." It might be vague, but it is an explanation and until someone changes languages by getting hit in another body part the explanation is still accurate.
        |TG-6th|Snooggums

        Just because everyone does something does not mean that it is right to do.

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        • #5
          Re: Croatian teenager awakes from coma speaking German

          I wonder how recently she really started learning German...

          If she hasn't learned enough, imagine how hard it would be to communicate when you don't know the word for what you're trying to say, literally.

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          • #6
            Re: Croatian teenager awakes from coma speaking German

            Originally posted by Celestial1 View Post
            I wonder how recently she really started learning German...

            If she hasn't learned enough, imagine how hard it would be to communicate when you don't know the word for what you're trying to say, literally.
            That is what I wanted to know, did she become fluent in German ?
            Or did she just lose her Croatian and was forced to use what German she knew ?
            If it was the latter, then the right brain/left brain stuff makes perfect sense, but if she was suddenly speaking German fluently that would be truly weird.
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            • #7
              Re: Croatian teenager awakes from coma speaking German

              Originally posted by snooggums View Post
              They might not have a specific explanation of the mechanism, but they can say: "Head trauma can cause alterations in behavior including use of language to one they also have experience with." It might be vague, but it is an explanation and until someone changes languages by getting hit in another body part the explanation is still accurate.
              Sure, I was basing my comment on this quote from one of the doctors involved, but I understand your point. Anyway, it's definitely an odd case and quite interesting.

              "In earlier times this would have been referred to as a miracle," Dr. Mijo Milas, a psychiatric expert involved in the teen's case told the U.K. press. "We prefer to think that there must be a logical explanation -- it's just that we haven't found it yet."
              |TG-X| mp40x



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              • #8
                Re: Croatian teenager awakes from coma speaking German

                There's also this other article from Discovery News, wich offers a more detailed analysis of what might have happened to the Croatian girl.

                Coma Victim's Language Ability Explained


                In a condition called bilingual aphasia, people often lose one of their two languages because different parts of the brain are involved in remembering each one, explained Michel Paradis, a neurolinguist at McGill University in Montreal.

                Even if a brain injury affected the Croatian teenager's memory of her native language, the brain areas that were learning German could have remained untouched

                "This has been observed thousands of times," Paradis said. "It's not surprising at all. I'd like to know all the facts, but it's quite possible that after a coma, you'd have problems which might be located in such a way in the brain that they affect one language but not another."

                What can't be true, though, is the claim that the coma gave the girl fluency that she didn't have before.

                "I looked on the web and saw comments that she recovered perfect German," Paradis said. "This cannot be the case. If she recovered German to the point that she could communicate well, that's fine. That's the kind of thing you would expect."

                Bilingual aphasia is possible because different types of memory are involved in learning first and second languages. As toddlers start to talk, their brains treat language like walking, jumping or any other motor skill. Those abilities belong to a realm called procedural memory; we do them without consciously thinking about them.

                When an adult or older child learns a new language, on the other hand, something called declarative memory takes charge. As if the language were history, geography or math, the brain learns rules and memorizes facts. After years or decades of developing fluency, some of that knowledge gets transferred into the subconscious procedural memory. However, declarative, or conscious, memory will always hang on to it in some way. (Children who grow up multilingual can store more than one language within the subconscious memory system.)

                Multiple areas of the brain intersect to encode both types of memory, but the two systems are generally distinct from each other. That makes it possible for a localized lesion, tumor or traumatic injury to wipe out one language but not another.

                Paradis suspects that the Croatian teenager suffered from edema, or swelling, that interfered with her ability to speak Croatian but not German. In cases like hers, he said, the native language usually returns when swelling goes down after a few weeks or months.

                Whether true or not, the case points out how much scientists still don't know about language and the brain.
                |TG-X| mp40x



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                • #9
                  Re: Croatian teenager awakes from coma speaking German

                  Seems like a software/hardware topic to me. ;)
                  Dude, seriously, WHAT handkerchief?

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