Australian woman sounds French after car crash; foreign accent syndrome to blame
There have been about 100 known cases of the rare condition since it was first reported in the 1940s.
Tue, Jun 18 2013 at 11:11 AM
Leanne Rowe, who picked up a French lilt after suffering from a head injury. (Photo: Snapshot from YouTube)
When Leanne Rowe began her arduous recovery after a car crash that left her jaw and back broken, little could the Tasmanian woman have predicted one of the most vexing problems to come from the accident.
In the eight years since the accident, she has been speaking with what sounds like a French accent.
"Slowly, as my jaw started to heal, they said that I was slurring my words because I was on very powerful tablets," she told ABC.
Family doctor Robert Newton believes Rowe has the very rare Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS), a speech disorder for which there have only been around 100 cases ever reported.
FAS leaves the speaker with a perceived foreign accent. Most often caused by stroke or traumatic brain injury, it has also been reported in cases that involve multiple sclerosis and conversion disorder.
NPR reports that the most famous case was a Norwegian woman who was hit by shrapnel in World War II; she developed a German accent and was ostracized as a result. Other cases include a British woman who developed a Chinese accent following a migraine, and another British woman who had a stroke and now sounds French. Other reported cases include accent changes from Japanese to Korean, British English to French, American-English to British English, and Spanish to Hungarian.
According to Karen Croot, a FAS researcher from the University of Sydney, it all boils down to coincidence. "It's just an accident of chance that happens to that person that what happens to their speech happens to overlap with the features of a known accent," she says.
Rowe says she has suffered from anxiety and depression since the accident, and has become a recluse, yet she is coming to terms with what will more than likely be a life-long condition.
"It makes me so angry because I am Australian," she said.
See more about Rowe in the video below:
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