Sunday, 16 September 2007

Speaking "unkown" languages

Hi there.

Last night I was reading ITLAD, page 354, where one Dr. Freeborn, in 1902, wrote up the case of an elderly English woman who had pneumonia, and who started to talk in Hindustani when she was in a particularly critical state. It was later discovered that she had lived in India as a child, and that the topic of her conversation was very much the language that a very young child might speak - talking about buying sweets etc. Still critical, she then went on to speak a little German and French, which she had picked up in her teenage years. The gist of the story is that she went through these languages in the order in which she learnt them over her life, suggesting that in her critical state, she was playing back her life in her mind, and that in her delirium, she was expressing herself outwardly.

That interested me in and of itself, because it's so fascinating, and the reason that I am posting this is because I read today in a couple of newspaper websites about a Czech guy who had a motorbike accident and woke up speaking perfect English, even though he was an elementary learner of the language. I have no idea what this may mean in terms of the book's contents and theory, but maybe it indicates at some level deep down that either we all in fact have within us all of the world's languages, (see page 352, where Alan Pring said in 1979, describing a NDE, that he "felt in some magical way that I would know everything that there was to know") or at least that we can tap into them somehow. Or perhaps in some way, this man's "track" got "jumped over" into someone else's!

Anyway, the links are below:

One of the links mentions that the ability to speak languages one has never learnt is called "xenoglossy". And here, for what it's worth, is a link to Wikipedia's offering on the "condition".

Anyone heard of any other stories like the biker one?


Prometheus said...

I have something but not sure if it's similar. When I was 4 years old my father fell from a building and while he was on the pavement he spoke perfect Spanish to my mother (who happens to be Spanish). Now he already knew some Spanish but not perfectly as he's English.

Anthony Peake said...

You may recall that in the book I argue that a possible explanation for this phenomenon is cryptomnesia. Finnish psychologist Dr Reima Kampman has developed a process whereby hypnotism can be used to isolate the source of these hidden memories or knowledge. For example he had a Finnish student who could sing a song in medieval English - a song that she had never heard of. She assumed that she was remembering a past-life. She was hypnotised back to a point in her childood when she had glanced at, for a second, her mother's book - 'History of Music' by Benjamin Britten & Imogen Holst - and had subconciously 'memorised' the lyrics and tune of the song 'Summer is Icumen in'.
For me the question is not the how but the why this happens when it does.