Leanne Rowe Accent: Australian Woman Wakes From Head Injury With French Accent [VIDEO]

By iScienceTimes Staff on June 17, 2013 3:34 PM EDT

Leanne Rowe
Leanne Rowe, an Australian woman, began speaking with a French accent after getting into a car accident. Doctors believe it's a case of Foreign Accent Syndrome. (Photo: YouTube screenshot)

Leanne Rowe, an Australian woman, began speaking with a French-sounding accent after recovering from a head wound. That's because she now suffers from Foreign Accent Syndrome, an extremely rare medical condition.

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Rowe, born and raised in Tasmania, was in a car accident 8 years ago. She awoke in a hospital with a broken back and jaw, unable to speak at first.

"Slowly, as my jaw started to heal, they said that I was slurring my words because I was on very powerful tablets," Rowe told the ABC.

When she was able to fully speak again, she found her Australian accent gone, replaced by something sounding French.

"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."

In public, Rowe's daughter, Kate Mundy, now often speaks for her mother, who's embarrassed by her French accent.

"It has affected her life greatly," Mundy said. "People see the funny side of it, and think it's really interesting, I mean, it is interesting but I've seen the impacts on mum's life."

Robert Newton, Rowe's family doctor, believes she suffers from Foreign Accent Syndrome.

"She turned up after having a nasty head injury eight years ago speaking with a French accent -- I couldn't believe my ears. She'd done French at school but she'd never been to France, didn't have any French friends at all."

There has never been a case of Foreign Accent Syndrome in an Australian. In fact, there have only been 62 documented cases of the syndrome since it was identified in 1907.

Karen Croot, a psychologist from the University of Sydney, studies Foreign Accent Syndrome. She told ABC that the condition is caused when brain tissue that controls speech is damaged. A patient who begins speaking in another accent -- in this case, French -- isn't actually aping another nation's accent.

"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," Croot said.

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