It can take some people several years to master a new language, but for Ben McMahon, it just took being in a coma.
McMahon, a native of Melbourne, Australia, does not remember being in the accident that left him in a coma for more than a week. When he woke up he was able to speak almost perfect Mandarin Chinese, which amazed his parents. McMahon had taken Mandarin in high school, but says he was nowhere near proficient enough to speak fluently.
For the first few days after regaining consciousness, McMahon could only write and speak in Mandarin, and it took a few days for him to be able to comprehend English again. Taking advantage of his new language skills, McMahon at one time hosted a Chinese television show, and has since moved to Shanghai.
Doctors are baffled by McMahon's case, but it could be that brain damage caused by the accident led to circuits being injured and so-called "Mandarin circuits" becoming engaged in a new way. "Honestly, the brain is the most interesting place there is," Dr. Pankaj Shah told Australia's ABC News. "If you want to think about things which we know nothing about, the brain is one of those places." --Catherine Garcia