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I read this article about a Croatian teenager waking from coma, speaking fluent German. She started learning German before the coma. I know of savants and few people showing special mental improvements after accidents damaging their brain, but the end the article states:

"There are references to cases where people who have been seriously ill and perhaps in a coma have woken up being able to speak other languages – sometimes even the Biblical languages such as that spoken in old Babylon or Egypt"

That's where I get really skeptical about this whole article. Is there any truth in this Croatian case? And if so, are there some hard scientific studies, not explaining, but at least referencing true cases concerning Biblical languages?


Update: I would appreciate a clear scientific paper/study referencing and describing exactly a similar case or at least a scientific reference what the most extreme case of linguistic improvement after waking from coma was described by clear criterions.

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@Paul - or Aramaic. –  Fake Name Sep 9 '11 at 3:15
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Telegraph? Is it true, that most stories in the Telegraph are made up? –  user unknown Sep 9 '11 at 23:10
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I would say it is very likely that "people who have been seriously ill and perhaps in a coma have woken up being able to speak other languages". What I think is unlikely is that they did not speak those languages before they went into the coma. ;) –  Jason Dean Sep 11 '11 at 4:38
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@Mielu the question is imo answered when you can give a scientific reference (psychology, neuroscience,...) to any of those cases giving out clear criterions/descriptions what happend or you give scientific reference what the most extreme case of linguistic improvement observed in recent past was. –  Hauser Sep 11 '11 at 12:06
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up vote 11 down vote accepted

What a case of sneaky reporting!

Let's dissect the sequence of events in detail:

  1. A Croatian girl learns German (enough to read books and watch movies).
  2. Her parents don't think she is very good. They are not German experts though.
  3. She goes in a coma, wakes up and speaks German but not Croatian.
  4. The hospital director makes a very generic declaration, e.g. "You never know when recovering from such a trauma how the brain will react."
  5. A psychiatric court expert is asked on his opinion and gives it freely, implying glossolalia and people speaking in tongues after coma.
  6. A new-found fluency in German is implied or claimed in the various articles -- of course though we will never possibly know whether she actually improved or not.

In all of this, the only one semi-claiming something supernatural is Dr. Mijo Milas at point five, speaking about a patient he's not reported as visiting.

Given that there is a well known syndrome that makes people speak with a different accent, or another that makes people not able to speak properly in a variety of ways, I do not find the events particularly surprising.

A much more balanced account has been given by ABC news

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 asked neurologists and language experts to weigh in on these kinds of remarkable language phenomena.

One such rare but well-documented speech condition is known as Foreign Accent Syndrome. Those with this disorder will often be unable to speak after suffering a stroke or other brain trauma and when their voices return, they will sound as if they have a foreign accent.

Regarding the more general question of whether someone has ever been reported as learning a Biblical language after a coma - I haven't been able to find references. However, people do "speak in tongues" during religious activities. While they have claimed to be people speaking in Biblical languages, it has been proven to be glossolalia, a well studied (medical, non spiritual) phenomenon.


Newspaper articles to reconstruct the sequence above

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Really great answer! –  Sonny Ordell Jan 29 '12 at 21:10
    
telegraph needs you! –  Hauser Jan 30 '12 at 16:37
    
Adults are known (from MRI studies) to process foreign languages with different brain machinary than native languages. If the native language part of the brain were damaged, leaving only the higher-level foreign language facilities undamaged, this could explain the result. But you wouldn't magically learn a language you didn't already know of course. –  Ron Maimon Apr 9 '12 at 0:28
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