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When 22-year-old Australian car-crashvictim Ben McMahon woke up from a week-long coma, the only language he couldspeak was fluent Mandarin. So fluent, in fact, that he is now a popular TV starin China!|
The incident took place in early 2012 – Benwas in a terrible car crash in Melbourne that left him battling for his life.While his survival seemed like a miracle, nobody was prepared for the bizarretwist that occurred when he finally regained consciousness a week later – hisbrain simply decided to switch from English to Mandarin.
“Most of it’s hazy, but when I woke upseeing a Chinese nurse, I thought I was in China,” recalled Ben. “It was like adream. It was surreal. It was like my brain was in one place but my body was inanother. I just started speaking Chinese – they were the first words that leftmy mouth.”
According to the Asian nurse who wasattending to Ben at the time, his first words upon waking up were: “Excuse menurse, I feel really sore here.” He apparently said the whole thing inMandarin. Then, he asked for a piece of paper and a pen and wrote on it inMandarin script: “I love my mum, I love my dad, I will recover.”
Ben’s doctors and family were stupefied byhis affinity for the foreign tongue. Although he had learned Mandarin at schooland traveled to Beijing before the accident, he had never really mastered thelanguage. “I wasn’t consciously thinking I was speaking Mandarin, it was whatjust came out and it was what was most natural to me,” he said. It actuallytook a couple of days before he remembered to speak English.
His newfound language skills did come at aprice – Ben does get tired easily and he needs to sleep more. But a host ofopportunities have also opened up for him. He has conducted Chinese tours ofhis hometown Melbourne, and he’s now hosting a Mandarin TV program called ‘Au My Ga’ that explains Australian culture to Chineseexpats.
“They’ve really welcomed me with openarms,” said Ben. “There aren’t too many people that studied the Mandarinlanguage at this level. That really gives you a lot of force behind yourself tojust keep going and going.” Ben also said that he’s just really glad hesurvived and that he’s able to speak a second language.