The Sideshow

After crash, Australian woman has French accent

The Sideshow

An Australian woman is believed to be suffering from foreign accent syndrome, one of the rarest syndromes in the world, abc.net.au reports.

The woman, Leanne Rowe, was involved in a serious car crash eight years ago. While healing from her wounds, including a broken jaw, Rowe began to speak in what sounded like a French accent.

At first, doctors and family assumed the injury to her jaw was to blame. But, even now, eight years later, the accent has stuck, according to Reuters.

Rowe spoke to Reuters about her unusual affliction. "It makes me so angry because I am Australian," she said. "I am not French, [although] I do not have anything against the French people."

While the syndrome is undeniably fascinating, it has had a serious effect on Rowe. She told abc.net.au that she has become withdrawn and depressed. She is sometimes so self-conscious that she asks her daughter to speak for her in public.

Doctors believe foreign accent syndrome occurs after an injury causes tissue damage to a specific part of the brain involved in speech.

Though extremely rare, there have been other documented cases of foreign accent syndrome. The site for the University of Texas at Dallas's Speech Production Lab lists other instances, "including accent changes from Japanese to Korean, British English to French, American English to British English, and Spanish to Hungarian."

Many who have suffered from the syndrome are upset by what they perceive as a loss of a part of their identity. In 2006, Englishwoman Linda Walker suffered a stroke and woke to find that her British accent was now a combination of Jamaican, Canadian and Slovakian. "I've lost my identity, because I never talked like this before. I'm a very different person, and it's strange and I don't like it," Walker told BBC News.

But not all are sorry about their new way of speaking. In 2011, NPR spoke with Karen Butler, an American who, after a small stroke, woke with a vaguely Irish-English accent. Speaking with NPR, Butler said she's fine with the unexpected change because it's made her more outgoing.

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