Tue, Jun 18, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Aussie vexed by injury-induced French accent


An Australian woman who now speaks with a French-sounding accent after a head injury eight years ago has revealed that the experience has left her feeling frustrated and reclusive.

Leanne Rowe, born and raised on the southern Australian island of Tasmania, was in a serious car crash which left her with a broken back and jaw.

“Slowly, as my jaw started to heal, they said that I was slurring my words because I was on very powerful tablets,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) on Sunday.

As she regained her health, Rowe found that she spoke with what sounded like a strong French accent.

“It makes me so angry because I am Australian,” she said. “I am not French, [though] I do not have anything against the French people.”

The condition has had a deep impact on Rowe’s life and her daughter usually speaks for her in public.

“I prefer nighttime because it is very peaceful, not many people about,” she said.

Rowe has not had a definitive diagnosis, but her family doctor, Robert Newton, believes she is Australia’s second-ever case of Foreign Accent Syndrome, a rare condition.

“She had a normal, if you like, Australian accent for the whole time I knew her before that,” he told the ABC. “She’d done French at school, but she’d never been to France, didn’t have any French friends at all.”

Only a few dozen people worldwide have been officially documented as suffering from the syndrome since it was first recorded in 1907. It is linked to damage to the part of the brain that controls speech.

In 2010, a New Zealand woman with multiple sclerosis found her Kiwi tones turning into a mix of Welsh, Scottish and North London accents and a subsequent scan revealed two lesions on her brain.

Other known cases include an English woman speaking with a French accent after having a stroke and a Norwegian woman who spoke with a German accent after being hit by shrapnel in 1941.

Three years ago, a woman in England reportedly began speaking with a Chinese accent after suffering a migraine.

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