Englishman Speaks Fluent Welsh After Stroke

January 1, 2013 Updated: December 31, 2012


A retired Englishman woke up speaking Welsh and had to learn to speak English again after he suffered a severe stroke and was unconscious for three weeks.

Alun Morgan, 81, lives in Somerset, but spent some time in Wales 70 years ago as a child when he was evacuated there during World War II. Although he never learned to speak Welsh, he was among Welsh speakers until he was 10. One explanation is that he picked up the language without realizing, and this ability was unlocked during the stroke.

“It was an amazing experience because I discovered after two or three days, when I was becoming a bit compus mentus, that I was speaking totally Welsh, and only my wife could understand me,” Morgan said during an interview with The Telegraph.

Gradually his English came back, but Morgan said it was not easy.

“Having learned that I was only speaking Welsh, I had to find a way of learning English, so very early on I got myself a good Welsh dictionary, which I kept looking at every now and again to make sure that the words I was using were correct.” 

Morgan has been diagnosed with a type of brain damage called aphasia, which affects the brain areas that coordinate language. Other people have had similar conditions and ended up with Foreign Accent Syndrome, which changes how they speak and form words.

Chris Clark, Stroke Association’s UK Director of Life After Stroke Services, told The Telegraph that aphasia can limit people’s communication abilities.

“Stroke can have a big affect on individuals and lead to personality and physical changes,” he said. 

“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.”

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