How a Car Crash Can Give You A Foreign Accent

  • Share
  • Read Later

A severe car accident eight years ago left Australian Leanne Rowe with a broken back and jaw — and a French accent.

In a recent update from CNN, Rowe says she is still unable to speak in her former Australian accent, which is upsetting for the proud Aussie. Rowe has foreign accent syndrome (FAS), a rare brain condition in which trauma can scramble patients’ speech processes by interfering with the way individuals move their mouths, which in turn can change how they pronounce vowels. FAS is considered as a speech disorder within the spectrum of stuttering.

In 2010, TIME reported on Gloucestershire native Kay Russell, who, after experiencing a severe migraine attack, started to speak in what sounded like a French accent. The first case of FAS was reported in 1941, according to CNN, after a Norwegian woman who had shrapnel injuries to the head starting speaking with a German accent during her recovery.

As TIME reported, the FAS support and advocacy group, led by two speech-language pathologists, says that FAS sufferers are still able to communicate effectively, despite their newfound accents:

Speech may be altered in terms of timing, intonation, and tongue placement so that is perceived as sounding foreign. Speech remains highly intelligible and does not necessarily sound disordered.

FAS has been documented in cases around the world, including  accent changes from Japanese to Korean, British-English to French, American-English to British English, and Spanish to Hungarian.

Read more about FAS here.

MORE: A Severe Migraine Could Give You a New Accent