Australian Man Awakes from Coma Speaking Fluent Mandarin

updated 09/08/2014 AT 09:30 PM EDT

originally published 09/08/2014 AT 04:45 PM EDT

Ben McMahon of Melbourne, Australia, can't remember the serious car accident that left him in a coma for over a week, but what he recalled upon waking up is truly astounding.

McMahon awoke from his coma with the ability to speak near-perfect Mandarin, reports IJ Review. His parents were overjoyed to hear that their son was going to be okay, but they were equally shocked by his new language skills. McMahon had taken Mandarin in high school, but admits he was never close to mastering the Chinese dialect.

For the first few days after waking up, McMahon could only speak and write Mandarin. It took several days for him to regain his comprehension of English. Even after McMahon started speaking English again, his new knowledge of Mandarin remained.

Today, McMahon is putting his surprising new skill to use. He is currently living and studying in Shanghai, and he has also spent time leading Mandarin tours of Melbourne and hosting a Chinese television show. The Chinese-speaking friends McMahon has made along the way say the Australian is the best non-native speaker they've met.

McMahon's surgeon is unable to fully explain the sudden burst of knowledge, but describes his patient's skills as new circuits at work. Simply put, McMahon's English “circuits were damaged” during the accident, so his “Mandarin circuits got engaged" in a new way to compensate.

However doctors want to explain it, McMahon is just happy to be alive and fluently speaking two very different languages.

Australian Man Awakes from Coma Speaking Fluent Mandarin| Real People Stories

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