She Woke Up From Bike Crash and Couldn't Speak English

British woman reverts to the German she grew up with
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2018 12:38 PM CDT
Updated Oct 21, 2018 3:00 PM CDT
Stock photo.   (Getty/nortonrsx)

(Newser) – Britain's Hannah Jenkins got knocked unconscious when she collided with another bicyclist, and when she woke up in the hospital, she couldn't figure out why the doctors and nurses weren't speaking English. Except, as the BBC explains, they were. Jenkins, however, couldn't understand a thing: The crash had essentially knocked the English out of her brain. Jenkins grew up speaking German in her UK home but used English in her everyday life as an adult. When she regained consciousness, she hadn't realized that the jolt to her brain caused what a neurosurgeon describes as secondary language loss. "I felt as though I'd woken up in a foreign country and I couldn't understand why people weren't speaking to me in a way that I could understand," she says.

The issue became magnified when Jenkins was released from the hospital and discovered that she could no longer communicate with her boyfriend of eight years except through hand signals. After three years, her English is slowly coming back—in written form more so than the spoken form—and she and her partner often communicate through notes. "I'm fine in the mornings, but by the afternoon the fatigue really kicks in and I switch in my mind to thinking in German," says Jenkins. The crash also seems to have altered her personality somewhat, making Jenkins less patient and leading her to close the dog-training business she had started before the accident. "It's almost like you have to go through a bereavement process to say goodbye to the old you," she says. Read the full story. (A man woke from a coma speaking fluent Mandarin.)

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