Englishman wakes up from stroke speaking fluent Welsh – Alun Morgan, 81, was evacuated to Wales during the Second World War but left 70 years ago. During his time there he was surrounded by Welsh speakers but never learned the language himself. He left the country aged 10 and lived his life in England and recently suffered a severe stroke. But when Mr Morgan regained consciousness three weeks later, doctors discovered he was speaking Welsh and could not remember any English. It is thought that the Welsh Mr Morgan heard as a boy had sunk in without him knowing and was unlocked after he suffered the stroke.
Mr Morgan, who is retired and lives with his wife Yvonne in Bathwick, Somerset, is now being taught to speak English again. “I’d not lived in Wales since I was evacuated there during the war. Gradually the English words came back, but it wasn’t easy,” he said.
Mr Morgan had been watching the lunchtime news when his wife noticed he was not responsive and called an ambulance. He was rushed into hospital where he spent three weeks being stabilised and assessed. Doctors diagnosed Mr Morgan with aphasia, a form of brain damage which causes a shift in the brain’s language centre.
He was helped by the Communication Support Service, run by the Stroke Association in Bath. In 2012 grandmother Kay Russell, 49, of Bishop Cleeve in Gloucestershire, suffered a migraine and began speaking in a French accent. Sarah Colwill, 35, of Plymouth, Devon, also suffered a migraine and began speaking with a Chinese accent.
Doctors say they suffered Foreign Accent Syndrome, a condition which damages the part of the brain that controls speech and word formation. More than 150,000 people have a stroke every year in the UK, and a third end up with aphasia as a result.
Chris Clark, Stroke Association’s UK Director of Life After Stroke Services said: “Stroke can have a big affect on individuals and lead to personality and physical changes. With a stroke, blood supply to the brain is cut off and in the areas starved of oxygen, brain cells die and damage can be caused.
“Aphasia is caused by damage to the areas of the brain responsible for language. “As a result, individuals who were previously able to communicate through speaking, understanding, reading and writing become more limited in their ability to do so.”