After a car crash that kept him in a coma, Ben McMahon woke up speaking fluent mandarin chinese, how is that possible?
Chinese is seen one of the most difficult languages to learn, how comes you can learn it from a coma?
I truly find this case interesting for all language learners and language teachers. We need to know that this young Australian man had already studied mandarin chinese at high-school. The most impressive thing is that he could never speak it fluently before the accident.
When Ben woke up, he spoke a close to perfect form of mandarin, and had forgotten English, which took him several days or weeks to recover.
The reason why he could speak mandarin is simple, mandarin was already in his mind.
Getting immerse into a coma is a harmful experience that actually causes a lot of brain damage. The brain has to re-shape itself from the inside, and some abilities get dismissed.
I’m pretty sure Ben’s brain re-shaped his linguistic skills from his subconscious layer. As getting that deeper in our minds logic doesn’t work, his brain just took any language was available.
He later gained back his English linguistic competence, of course, which was also in there too.
The reason why this is possible has a lot to do with the way languages are taught. We pay too much attention to grammar and syntax instead of what really matters, speaking.
Humans are a bit reluctant to speaking in a different language, ans so was Ben, who even though had the ability to communicate in mandarin, didn’t.
But when necessity calls, the human brain takes any possible solution and mandarin was there available.
A classroom and real life use
In the classroom, we must speak as much as we can in order to develop our language skills to the most. However; some people are afraid of it, and do not think they can.
You learn to speak by speaking, not by translating or any other stuff. So despite the fact that grammar needs to be learnt and our educational system can provide it to us, we need the real thing, speaking.
In other cases, some people needed to be hypnotized to express their full potential in a second language, but we don’t need to traumatize ourselves getting into a coma to succeed.
Let yourself go, and live the language without you normal excuses and it’d work.