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Tags: coma | accident | chinese

Man Wakes up From Coma Fluent in Language He Barely Knew

Chinese characters
Writing Chinese characters. (Istomina Olena/

By    |   Friday, 28 June 2019 01:49 PM EDT

Ben McMahon woke up from a coma speaking fluent Chinese — an astounding fact considering he wasn't fluent in the language before the accident that put him in the coma!

"It was just the most natural thing that came out of my mouth," the Melbourne resident revealed in an upcoming interview for Vice's podcast "Extremes."

McMahon had no idea just how much his life was about to change when he climbed into the passenger seat of a car in 2015. That day, the car he was traveling in collided with a truck. McMahon was rushed to a hospital and placed into an induced coma, but doctors did not believe he would make it. Not only were they astounded that he woke up, but that he was also fluent in Chinese.

McMahon said he opened his eyes to find a nurse by his side. When he tried to speak to her, the words that came out of his mouth were in Chinese. He then asked for a pen and paper and wrote a note in Mandarin to his parents that said "I love my mum, I love my dad, I will recover," The Daily Mail reported.

McMahon told Vice that he knew some basics of the Chinese language but couldn't really hold a basic conversation in Chinese until then.

"But then, after the accident, my internal monologue, the voice that kind of speaks to you in your head, that just switched. And so from that moment onwards it just became so much more natural and so much more fluent, there was no first thinking English then translating to Chinese and speaking, it was just straight Chinese."

It took him a week to differentiate between languages and it was about a month before he could go home. He made a full recovery but maintained his ability to speak Chinese. Experts had several suggestions as to why this happened.

"Yeah, one of the theories was that English speakers, most of our language memory is on the left side of the brain," he told Vice. "But for some reason Chinese speakers use both hemispheres of the brain more than, say, your average English speaker. And I received most of the impact on the left side, so that side needed to rest and repair itself. Potentially what then happened is the brain went 'okay, left side needs to go into more rest, let’s shift the language activity over to the right side.' And for that reason maybe Chinese became more natural."

It was not long before McMahon's story made headlines and he was invited to appear on a Chinese talk show — an experience that ignited a great love for the country and its people.

"I've been kind of directed in this way towards China and I've got this deep, burning passion for the country that I wouldn't have if it wasn't for the accident. I just think fate dictates the direction you go," he said.

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Doctors were amazed when an Australian man woke up from a medically induced coma fluent in Chinese.
coma, accident, chinese
Friday, 28 June 2019 01:49 PM
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