Poisoned Chinese Woman Now Speaks Fluent English

September 30, 2013 Updated: October 2, 2013

A woman from central China now speaks English better than her native Chinese after suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to a recent article by Changjiang Daily.

Chen Jia, 28, comes from a village in Wuhan, Hubei Province, and was hospitalized last year after inhaling carbon dioxide at an indoor barbecue. She had recently returned from Australia, where she worked for two years at the University of Technology in Sydney, and became fluent in English.

After the poisoning incident, Chen was unable to walk, and also had difficulty talking. She often stuttered while speaking in Chinese, and repeated her name several times when introducing herself.

Dr. Deng Hongwei at the hospital’s rehabilitation department said that brain damage can alter people’s language abilities, Shanghai Daily reported.
“Similar cases have been reported before,” he said. “When bilingual patients suffer brain damage, they can lose the ability to speak one language but speak the other language very well.”

To assist with her rehabilitation, Chen began to teach English to medical staff at the hospital. A hospital intern who takes her classes told the Daily that her skills are comparable to those of university lecturers.

Netizens commented about the news on their Sina Weibo microblogs with many expressing amazement and sympathy. Some joked, making remarks like: “Why didn’t I do that when I took my English tests?”
Others were suspicious about the genuineness of the Changjiang Daily’s article, because it said at the end that Chen needs 10,000 yuan (over $1,600) per month for physiotherapy, and asked for readers to make donations.

“After a touching story there follows a commercial, like a shopping channel,” wrote one reader.

Another said: “This woman once worked in an university in Australia, and must have made more than 20,000 yuan ($3,200) per month. How come she needs help with money? I suggest she gets a loan and pays it off after she starts working.”

Research by Hsin-Yi Lin