It’s common for strokes to affect the regions of the brain that govern language processing. Stroke victims often struggle with difficulty speaking. Sometimes, these difficulties manifest themselves in surprising ways. For example, 81-year-old Alun Morgan of Bath spent most of his life speaking only English. Imagine, then, his surprise when he came to after a stroke unable to remember a word of his native language, but speaking Welsh instead!
In the midst of the Second World War, a young Mr. Morgan was evacuated to the Welsh countryside for four years to live with his grandmother and aunt. During that time, he became fairly fluent in the language, according to the Independent:
“We were London Welsh and I learned a bit of Welsh when I was in London. Then, when I was evacuated to Wales during the war, we spoke it virtually all the time because my aunt didn’t speak much English, so I had to pick it up very quickly.”
After the war, he returned to London and stopped speaking Welsh completely, until his stroke. He thought he’d forgotten it completely, but apparently it was still locked somewhere deep inside his brain. When Mr. Morgan awoke in the hospital, at first he couldn’t speak at all. Then, as he told local website ThisIsBath,
“But gradually I started speaking a few words in Welsh. This was strange because I’d not lived in Wales since I was evacuated there during the war. Only my wife could understand what I was saying, and doctors were confused. Gradually the English words came back but it wasn’t easy.”
Fortunately for Mr. Morgan, his wife spoke Welsh and was able to translate for the hospital staff, so there was no need to send for an interpreter.
It seems that when he found himself unable to access the English words for what he wanted to say ( a common stroke complication known as aphasia), his brain automatically switched to Welsh as a coping mechanism. After a lot of work, he has regained his ability to speak in English, but as he told The Independent, “I’ve almost forgotten Welsh again.”
You can see Mr. Morgan discuss his experience in an interview with the Telegraph here:
Image Credit: Alan Fryer