Extreme foreign accent syndrome: after head knock, girl reportedly speaks four languages

The World

To be considered with extreme skepticism: Singaporean media reports that, after a motorbike wreck, a Malaysian 17-year-old woke up in the hospital speaking four new languages: Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indonesian.

It's not as cool as it sounds. According to the New Straits Times, the "language changes every day," he mother said, and the family learns the langauge du jour only after the girl performs her morning prayers. The new language kicks in only between dawn and 6 p.m. And if her brain deigns to speak Chinese or Korean that day, she's forced to communicate with her mom in hand gestures until the effect wears off.

Is any of this scientifically plausible?

The girl is a native Malay speaker. Adopting Indonesian — a similar language derived from the same Malay-based trading tongue — would be easiest. Taking on Chinese and Korean, languages she's reportedly heard watching foreign soap operas, is baffling. A reporter with the New Straits Times claims to have interviewed the girl in a mix of Indonesian and Mandarin.

Malaysia's government, according to state news service Bernama, may send specialists to her home for a proper diagnosis.

They may decide she has some extreme form of "foreign accent syndrome," an extremely rare condition that is, according to the BBC, "triggered following a stroke or head injury, when tiny areas of the brain linked with language, pitch and speech patterns are damaged."

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