According to Time, 16-year-old Reuben Nsemoh had never spoken Spanish before, but an injury changed that. Last month in Gwinnett County, Georgia, while playing goalie, Nsemoh was kicked in the head while diving for the ball, causing his third concussion. Nsemoh went into shock and was experiencing seizures before paramedics were able to airlift him to the closest hospital.
Then, after three days in a coma, something had changed. When he began moving again, he gestured for food and said, "Tengo hambre," which means "I am hungry" in Spanish. It made sense for him to be hungry—it didn't make sense for him to speak Spanish. He has a few peers who speak the language fluently, but, before his accident, Nsemoh could only speak a few phrases in Spanish.
"I was very shocked. That’s something he’s never done before. When he got up and he started speaking Spanish, I was confused,” said the player's mother, Dorah Nsemoh. The mother, who is from Nigeria, explained to nurses that her son and her family speak English, saying, "We're not Spanish-based people."
Calling her son's recovery a "miracle," Nsemoh's mother said, "My son is awake, I don't care what language he's speaking."
"It started flowing out. I felt like it was second nature for me," the teen told Time of the experience. "I wasn't speaking my English right, and every time I tried to speak it I would have a seizure."
Nsemoh was able to recover his English skills, and, while his Spanish is starting to fade, he says he can still speak both English and Spanish fluently.
It's not yet clear how exactly Nsemoh's sudden mastery of Spanish happened, but neurologists are looking into it. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, severe cases of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can cause "a wide range of functional short- or long term-changes," including changes in language function.