The ability to speak in an unknown and unlearned foreign language. The phenomenon is frequently present in incidents of past-life-recall, and states of altered consciousness such as trance, delirium, and mediumship.
The French physiologist Charles Richet coined the term xenoglossy around the turn of the 20th century. It is composed of the New Latin Tern xeno (“strange, foreign”) and the Greek term glossa (“tongue”).
Many findings of xenoglossy are still suspect since most documented incidents have proven to be false. The “unknown learned foreign” language proved to be nothing more than forgotten phrases discovered in the subconscious, or pseudo- languages which were pure gibberish. In fewer cases the phenomenon appeared to be telepathy results between two people such as a hypnotist and a subject.
There is considered to be two types of xenoglossy: recitative and responsive. The former is more common. In this type the persons recite words or phrases of a foreign language without understanding them. As previously mentioned earlier such words and phrased have been learned in the past but forgotten. In responsive xenoglossy the persons are able to converse in the unlearned language.
A famous case of recitative xenoglossy in past-life recall is that of a Hindu girl, Swarnlata Mishra, born in 1948. The case was researched in 1961 by Ian Stevenson. The girl sang Bengali songs and performed Bengali dances without ever having been exposed to Bengali language or culture. Swarnlata explained she was a Bengali woman in a previous life and had been taught the songs and dances by a friend.
One of the earliest xenoglossy incidents was recorded in 1862 by Prince Galtizin, a mesmerist who magnetized an uneducated German woman who knew no French in her waking state. In the trance state she told of an 18th century French life while speaking fluent French.
Recorded is the Jensen case, a 33 year old Philadelphia housewife “T.E.” who underwent hypnotic regression performed by her physician husband. The sessions occurred between 1955 and 1956. A male personality emerged that was “Jensen.” He was a peasant farmer speaking in 17th century colloquial Swedish in a deep voice. His speech was detected as not being fluent as it was laborious and phrases were sometimes automatically repeated.
While in deep trance T.E. denied ever having studied any Scandinavian languages. There was no manifestation of subconscious knowledge of Swedish during hypnosis. T.E. was not in Jesnen’s personality. Ian Stevenson called her ability to speak Swedish paranormal.
Other responsive xenoglossy cases have been reported. Two authentic ones are those of Gretchen and Sharada. Gretchen emerged during hypnotic regression of Dolores Jay, in 1970, a wife of a Methodist minister in Elkton, Virginia. Gretchen, a German girl understood simple English and responded in imperfect German. She identified herself as Gretchen Gottlieb, daughter of the mayor of Eberswalde, Germany, and had apparently died around the age of sixteen. It was determined she lived during the late 19th century. Likewise, Dolores Jay had never studied German.
Sharada intruded the life of Uttara Huddar, a Marathi-speaking Indian woman. The intrusion occurred for at least eight years. Uttara was born in 1941 and was 33 when the personality take over was detected. When hospitalized in 1974 for a skin disease it was observed she experienced mood changes. During yogi instructions the Bengali-speaking personality of Sharada emerged.
Bengali was the only language which Sharada spoke. Bengali was unknown to either Uttara or her family. Sharada seemed to have lived in the first half of the 19th century having died at 23 but refused to believe herself dead. She periodically manifested herself and Uttara and her family had to get use to the visiting personality. (Also see Depossession)
Both Gretchen and Sharada wrote German and Bengali respectively which is considered the phenomenon of xenography. A.G.H.