Under the Hood

What Is Foreign Accent Syndrome? Teen Wakes From Coma Speaking Spanish For The First Time Following Traumatic Brain Injury

Last month, a 16-year-old teen from Georgia who knew just a few words of Spanish woke from a coma speaking the language fluently after sustaining a life-threatening head injury while playing soccer.

The teen, Rueben Nsemoh, was comatose for three days as a result of a severe concussion after another teenager accidentally kicked the right side of his head while playing the game, according to Time. 

“It started flowing out,” Nsemoh told Time of his ability to speak Spanish. “I felt like it was like second nature for me. I wasn’t speaking my English right, and every time I tried to speak it I would have a seizure. It was weird.”

“It was not scary at all,” the teen added. “I actually liked it a lot. It was really unique to me.”

pexels-photo-168872 After a serious head injury during soccer, a teen woke from a three-day coma speaking fluent Spanish for the first time. Photo courtesy of Pexels

In the weeks after waking, he gradually recovered the ability to speak English, but retained his Spanish, and continues speaking both languages. However, the teen’s quickly-learned Spanish has already started to fade.

This could be a unique case of foreign accent syndrome — the speech disorder that causes a sudden brain shift so that a native speaker is perceived to speak with a “foreign” accent, the University of Texas reported. Traumatic brain injuries and severe concussions can also cause mysterious changes in the mind’s language function, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Back in December, a case of foreign accent syndrome was reported in Texas when a woman who woke from jaw surgery began suddenly speaking in what sounded like an authentic British accent.

How does Nsemoh’s family feel about this phenomenon? They’re just happy that he’s okay and doctors say that scans suggest the teen’s brain will fully heal.

“Definitely, it’s a miracle,” Dorah Nsemoh, Reueben’s mother, told Time. “My son is awake; I don’t care what language he’s speaking. Whatever went on, he’s alive today and I believe 100 percent in recovery.”

Read more:

Traumatic Brain Injury Caused By Concussions May Lead To Long-Term Sleep Problems Without Us Even Knowing

Foreign Accent Syndrome: Texas Woman Wakes Up From Surgery With A British Accent

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