An Englishman who woke up speaking with an Irish accent after an operation, a French patient who woke up speaking fluent English… this is called “Foreign Accent Syndrome”. A few days ago, a Croatian teenager caused a stir by speaking German when she came out of her coma. The young girl had only just started studying this language, with the plan to learn it quickly, in particular by watching German television. After a 24-hour coma, she woke up speaking German. Doctors and scientists are seeking a rational explanation for this, but are still only at the hypothetical stage: there is apparently a subconscious learning ability that enables the brain to register a lot more information than we think, and a trauma, by damaging the zone controlling our native language, could make another zone take over, corresponding to a language learnt.
Of course, it’s easy to envy patients who wake up speaking another language fluently, but foreign accent syndrome is not easy to deal with on a day-to-day basis. An English woman suffering from chronic migraines and learning Chinese found, after treatment, that she had a Chinese accent that she can’t get rid of even when she speaks English. Her voice has become higher, her friends don’t recognise her on the telephone, and she’s desperately trying to get her normal voice back, with the help of a speech therapist.
As for Mickey Rourke, despite his numerous alcoholic comas, he was not lucky enough to wake up with a Russian accent, so he had to use a more traditional method in order to put himself in the shoes of Ivan Vanko, the baddy in Iron Man 2. He went to Russia and took a course for 3 months, with 3 hours of Russian each day. The time spent will be useful to him after the film, as he’s been seen recently in the company of a certain Anastassija Makarenko, of Russian origin.
Good luck if you’re learning a new language, and avoid any violent methods!