Australian Ben McMahon studied Mandarin in high school but is the first to admit he was far from fluent. Then, after a car crash left him in a coma his parents feared he would never come out of it.
Luckily McMahon pulled through, but something strange happened upon his awakening — he only spoke Mandarin. Fluent Mandarin. It took him several days to regain his English-speaking abilities, and the Mandarin was there to stay. McMahon’s Mandarin-speaking friends say he is the best non-native speaker they have ever heard. He has co-hosted a Chinese TV show, led Mandarin tours of Melbourne, and is attending university in Shanghai where he now lives. Neurosurgeon Dr. Pankaj Sah says there is a likely explanation for what happened, but that it isn’t 100% provable. Sah explains the brain is a mass of electrical circuits. McMahon’s English “circuits were damaged,” so when he woke up his “Mandarin circuits got engaged” like they never had before.