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Australian Woman Speaks With French Accent After Car Crash

By Orgesta Tolaj


31 October 2023

Australian woman with a French accent

© Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Do you remember those times when you would pretend to have a British accent for the fun of it? Growing up, you probably watched British TV Shows and were obsessed with Sherlock. You would hang out with your friends and tell them “No, this accent is really just how I learned my English”. If you can relate to this, you probably know how much you wanted to sound different. However, that is because you wanted to and not because of a Foreign Accent Syndrome. This woman’s story is something completely different. While she didn’t plan this, a car crash left an Australian woman with a French accent. But, how was this possible? Let’s find out together!

Australian woman with French accent
©️ ABC

How An Australian Woman Was Left With a French Accent

A woman from Tasmania, who has never been to France, now speaks with a strong French accent, causing her anxiety and depression. Eight years ago, Leanne Rowe had a car crash that led to a broken back and jaw. However, after recovering, she developed a French accent, leaving her unable to speak with her original Australian accent. This unexpected change has made her feel like a recluse, often relying on her daughter to speak for her in public. She emphasized that she is not French and expressed frustration at being mistaken for someone from another country.

Australian woman with a French accent through foreign accent syndrome
© Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Leanne told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: “Slowly, as my jaw started to heal, they said that I was slurring my words because I was on very powerful tablets”. She then added: “I am not French. It makes me so angry because I am Australian.”

How Was This Possible?

Foreign accent syndrome is an exceptionally rare condition that results from brain injuries, leading to a significant change in a person’s speech patterns, effectively giving them a different accent. The phenomenon was first officially documented in 1941. A Norwegian woman, who had sustained shrapnel injuries to her brain during a German bombing run, started speaking with a German accent after her recovery. Remarkably, there have been only a few dozen reported cases of this intriguing syndrome since.

Dr. Karen Croot, one of the few experts in foreign accent syndrome, describes it as an impairment of motor control. Speech is a highly intricate process, involving various brain centers that coordinate numerous moving parts. When one or more of these components are damaged, it can affect the timing, melody, and tension of a person’s speech. Importantly, this condition doesn’t hinder a person’s ability to communicate effectively.

Not the First Case of Foreign Accent Syndrome

In 2010, Sarah Colwill, a 35-year-old British woman, developed what sounded like a Chinese accent after experiencing a severe migraine. She expressed frustration, saying that being stuck with this new accent was bringing her down, as it didn’t feel like her voice. However, some patients, like one English-speaking woman who started sounding Irish, felt positive about their new accents, seeing them as intriguing new personas.

On the other hand, some individuals eventually return to their original speech patterns. For instance, a case was mentioned of an Australian who developed an American accent after a car accident, but this accent disappeared about five months later. Foreign accent syndrome can result in a range of emotional responses and outcomes for those who experience it.

While uncommon, foreign accent syndrome is an issue that can leave people depressed and anxious. It can also lead to identity crisis which can leave people unsure of who they are as a person. Further research is definitely necessary for the matter. What would you do if this happened to you?

You might also want to read: AI Technology Restores Paralyzed Woman’s Voice – Science Wins!

Orgesta Tolaj

Your favorite introvert who is buzzing around the Hive like a busy bee!