China: Stroke patient loses Chinese language ability

Liu Jaiyu in a hospital bed in Hunan Image copyright Hunan TV
Image caption Liu Jaiyu is only able to communicate with nursing staff in English

An elderly Chinese woman is only able to speak English after suffering a stroke, it's been reported.

Liu Jaiyu, a 94-year-old former English teacher, has found herself no longer able to speak Chinese after parts of her brain relating to native language were damaged by a cerebral infarction, the local Hunan TV reports. Television pictures show her in bed, answering simple questions in English, which means the nursing staff are having to brush up on their language skills. "She greets me in the morning using English, after she's eaten her meals in the afternoon she uses English," one nurse tells the TV. "My memory of the language isn't too good, sometimes I don't understand what she's saying!"

A doctor at the hospital says that Ms Liu is suffering from paralysis of all her limbs, as well as an "obstacle" to her language functions. "It seems the part of her brain responsible for her mother tongue has been damaged, however the part that uses English has been preserved," Li Yanfang says.

There have been rare cases where patients develop a different accent after a stroke, migraine or head trauma. But Ms Liu's case appears different because she has apparently turned to an already-learned language. Experts say that the complex Chinese language requires the use of both parts of the brain, while English only uses one side.

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