O’Neal Mahmoud, a 3-year-old from an Arabic-speaking Druze family in the Golan Heights, Israel, has amazed doctors with his ability to speak English with a British accent without ever having been exposed to the foreign language.
Named after legendary basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, O’Neal Mahmoud didn’t speak at all until he was 2-years-old. Then he started making these unintelligible noises, and at one point started speaking fluent English and using phrases like “my dear” and “oh my goodness”, which are hardly ever used in his home village, near the Druze town of Majdal Shams, in northern Israel. Stranger still is the fact that O’Neal doesn’t actually know the Arabic equivalents of the English words he speaks. A speech therapist and clinical linguist who examined the toddler concluded that his level of English was that of a three-year-old who grew up in an English-speaking family, while his level of Arabic – his native language – was far below that.