I love those stories about people hitting their head and suddenly knowing how to play Mozart-level on the piano. But those people who wake up speaking another language have one of the strangest and most mysterious afflictions. It's called "transient global amnesia" and one of the latest people to be diagnosed with it is a former Navy man who is most likely named Michael Boatwright -- at least, that is what all of his identification says. But the man, who woke up in a hotel room in Palm Springs, California, has no idea who he is. Nor does he speak English anymore, despite a passport saying he was born in Florida. He can only speak Swedish.
Boatwright showed up at a Motel 6 with five tennis rackets, a duffel bag, two cellphones, some old photos, identification, and a bit of cash. He had no idea who he was and could only speak Swedish. Like an intellectual version of The Hangover.
A social worker assigned to help figure out who he was managed to piece together that he used to live in Japan and China, but can find no evidence he lived in Sweden -- though he may have had sisters who lived there (again, no concrete evidence of this). His American nationality doesn't stop him from calling himself Johan Ek, despite Michael Boatwright being on his Social Security card, license, passport, and veteran's medical card from when he was in the Navy.
He isn't the only person to get wake up from a coma or trauma speaking a different language. A man in England awoke from a coma speaking fluent Welsh despite having only visited there for a brief time years ago; and a Croatian teen awoke from a coma speaking fluent German.
Scientists think that when certain people suffer brain trauma, the portion of their left brain that stores language shuts down; however, if the person learned a language late in life, that is stored in the right side, so the brain suddenly accesses that language in a way it otherwise may not have been able to before when it was juggling both sides of the brain. So, boom, suddenly you are fluent in a language you barely knew.
But I ain't buying it. The explanation here is soooo obvious. Reincarnation!
Whenever anything miraculous happens, like someone dies and comes back to tell tales of angels and an afterlife, it's considered a Christian miracle. But there are plenty of other religions in the world, and reincarnation is a staple of many.
Who is to say they're wrong? If I woke up suddenly speaking fluent Japanese, despite having only heard it on a few Japanese films, I'd buy reincarnation over my brain becoming fluent overnight in a strange language. Even if your brain does manage to become fluent, how does your tongue do it?
Well, your tongue probably could if it used to speak it ... lifetimes ago!
While it may seem superawesome to wake up and suddenly be fluent in another language, in actuality, it's dreadful. Boatwright says (in Swedish, of course):
Sometimes it makes me really sad and sometimes it just makes me furious about the whole situation. Walk in my shoes for one day. You'll experience the nightmare of a lifetime.
Yeah, when you put it like that, it suddenly doesn't seem so great that you can watch Ingmar Bergman without subtitles. I hope this poor man gets his memory -- and his English -- back.
Do you believe in reincarnation?
Image via YouTube