Friday, April 23, 2010

"Foreign accent syndrome" makes British woman sound Chinese

British woman Sarah Colwill suffered from migraines for the past ten years, but this one was different. Changes to her brain after a severe migraine several weeks ago affected her speech patterns, and she now speaks with something resembling a Chinese accent:

Ok, it doesn't sound that Chinese, but as she states, after a while it started to sound a bit more Eastern European. It is a rare affliction known as foreign accent syndrome - only around 60 cases have ever been noted, and only around 20 people living today have it.

It's fascinating to consider why we speak the way we do - is it purely an effect of one's environment, as is generally assumed, or can physical aspects play a role?

I once taught an intellectually disabled kid who I'd always assumed was an American, since he spoke with an American accent. But he wasn't, and had never been there, and he hated being called an American; it was seemingly some kind of function of his disability that he spoke that way.

Here are 2 more people with the syndrome, from the documentary My Strange Brain:

If I'm ever unlucky enough to be stricken with foreign accent syndrome, I just hope I manage to end up sounding French. That wouldn't be too bad.

British-Iranian comedian Omid Djalili has his own take:

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