Foreign language syndrome: Australian woman wakes from surgery with an Irish accent

Keit

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I stumbled upon the following news. Pretty fascinating. There were cases like this in the past, and real causes are still unknown. Who knows, maybe from information field perspective during surgery there was some scrambling of brain connectivity with the field, and that's why during anaesthesia her "location point" jumped to Ireland. Maybe it was an information field geolocation problem. ;-D

But I am also curious to hear from our Irish members, if she does sound Irish, or this is how it sounds to us, the non-Irish folk.

Here's the news report about the story:


And here's only her talking for a bit.

 

Joe

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But I am also curious to hear from our Irish members, if she does sound Irish, or this is how it sounds to us, the non-Irish folk.

It sounds Irish, mixed with some Ozzie, although its "stage Irish", which suggests its neurological rather than mechanical. Or maybe she's just trolling.
 

Chu

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There was a similar case, of a Texan speaking with a British accent after surgery. Or a boy from I forget where who was American but woke up speaking Spanish. In both cases, I thought the accents sounded a bit like a mix, not quite "pure".

It's so rare (something like 100 cases in the whole world), that it hasn't been well studied. I'm not sure what to make of it. It could be neurological (except neurologists weren't able to find anything), an interference from "tuning into the information field", past lives stuff... No idea! But it's not unheard of. In some cases, it seems unlikely that the person faked it, for sure. But it tends to go away with time, AFAIK.
 

Ageeva

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But I am also curious to hear from our Irish members, if she does sound Irish, or this is how it sounds to us, the non-Irish folk.
This pheonomen does appear to happen, albeit rare, but in this case I agree with Joe, an Australian trying to do a stereotypical stage Irish accent. There are dozens of distinct regional Irish accents and if she had spoken in one of these I would have taken it more seriously. Instead I'm very doubtful of the authenticity of her claim.
 

Yupo

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It sounds Irish, mixed with some Ozzie, although its "stage Irish", which suggests its neurological rather than mechanical. Or maybe she's just trolling.
I hear some Australian pull in a few of her vowels. Maybe muscle memory? I'd think Australian or NZese would be the hardest of the native English accents to shake entirely (at least to my USA attuned ears). Well, I will include some sections of the New England corridor accents in there too.
 

Dave_P

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The anecdote of my mother, that one day woke up speaking in an Italian style, can imagine the commotion of my father and my grandmother. luckily, a few houses away there lived a man born in Italy who they called and said that "it was definitely a kind of Italian, but with an old pronunciation".
The next day, she woke up talking normal and what she remembered is that nobody understood her, but for her she spoke the same as always. strange things ...🤷‍♂️
 

Yupo

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The anecdote of my mother, that one day woke up speaking in an Italian style, can imagine the commotion of my father and my grandmother. luckily, a few houses away there lived a man born in Italy who they called and said that "it was definitely a kind of Italian, but with an old pronunciation".
The next day, she woke up talking normal and what she remembered is that nobody understood her, but for her she spoke the same as always. strange things ...🤷‍♂️
Wow. That almost sounds like she woke from a dream, like she was sleepwalking, speaking in Italian. It reminds me of dreams I've had about speaking and no one understanding me, and also another dream I had about someone else speaking and not being able to understand him. That last one turned out to be an important dream for me.
 

Keit

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Thank you all for the comments! :flowers:

I looked into this issue a bit and stumbled upon this take by Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki. Apparently he is an Australian "Neil deGrasse", so his views probably should be taken with a grain of salt. This is the "mainstream" view on the issue. But in this case it does make sense, especially since according to your feedback the accent isn't a naturally Irish one, but more a "theatrical" version of it. And perhaps she is trolling after all. 🤷‍♀️

Here's what he said in a podcast 3 years ago:

Dr Karl: Sometimes, some people, just pick up a brand new accent... out of nowhere!

But seriously, imagine waking up one day, and completely out of your control, you've suddenly started speaking with a foreign accent?!

This is known as Foreign Accent Syndrome.

People who get this incredibly rare syndrome suddenly start speaking their native language but with a new accent. French, or Spanish, or Hungarian.

And once you're affected with Foreign Accent Syndrome, it's very hard to get your normal accent back.

The first documented case of Foreign Accent Syndrome was in 1907, and there have only been about 150 cases documented in the medical literature since then. The cause is often mild damage to the brain — for example, a head injury, a stroke, or even surgery. But it can also be related to diabetes, an immune reaction, mental illness, multiple sclerosis, or some other unknown cause.

In 1941, a Norwegian woman suffered a head injury after being caught up in bombing by Nazi warplanes. To add insult to injury, she came out the other side with a completely new accent — a thick German accent at that. Sadly, she was then ostracised by her community, who thought she was a Nazi spy. Mind you, what kind of Nazi spy would suddenly develop a thick German accent as a disguise? It must have been very confusing for everyone, not least the woman herself!

In 2018, a Texan woman awoke after jaw surgery to find that she spoke in what American TV described as a "posh British accent". But to British people listening, she had a mishmash of British accents, with some phrases not fitting into any known British accent or style of speech.

And in most cases, people with Foreign Accent Syndrome appear to have a jumbled accent. In one study, when regular people were asked to name the accent of someone affected with the syndrome, they couldn't guess reliably. One quarter said it was a French accent, another quarter said it was an African accent — and the rest came up Welsh, Italian, Spanish, German, and Chinese accents.

So, what exactly is happening here to suddenly change people's accents in such a weird way?

Well, it's hard to speak clearly at the best of times. It takes incredibly precise control of the larynx, and the muscles of the tongue, lips, and jaw, to generate clear speech.

And vowels are especially fragile to changes in muscle control. The sound of a vowel can be greatly altered just by shifting your tongue back and forth, or up and down, in your mouth. And people with Foreign Accent Syndrome almost always have difficulty in pronouncing clear vowels.

On top of that, while you can understand what a person with Foreign Accent Syndrome is saying, it's likely that the timing, emphasis, and pronunciation of their speech isn't quite right.
Take the word banana. In Australian accents it normally has the stress in the middle — bah-NAH-nah, but a person with foreign accent syndrome might now pronounce the three syllables with equal stress — bar-nah-nah. They might also have "voicing errors" where they swap similar consonants like P's and B's. Other sounds can be distorted too — so "yeah" could become "yah", "dog" will be "dogue", while "greasy" turns into "gracey".

Researchers think what's happening in people with Foreign Accent Syndrome is that they're actually speaking a damaged form of their native language and accent. Their vowels might all get warped one way, or maybe their pronunciation changes — which is what happens when you speak in some accents! Someone listening tends to marry the new speech pattern to a known accent, and "hears" the person speaking with a foreign accent.

How you speak partly defines your identity, which is why many affected people seek treatment. There are other issues too - it could seem like you're making fun of someone else's accent, or being immature by not using your normal voice. We vary our speech all the time — being serious and responsible when talking to a cop, or playful and fun when talking to your three-year-old niece. But with Foreign Accent Syndrome, you lose some control over how you sound to others.

Treatment for the syndrome involves a team effort — speech pathologists, clinical psychologists, neurologists and even neuropsychologists, often working together. And sometimes with enough speech training, you can get back close to your original accent.
 
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Yupo

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This is off topic, but concerns a tale of amnesia after a head injury. If you want a light-hearted and seriously underrated movie about this stuff, look at American Dreamer.
 

Joe

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But in this case it does make sense, especially since according to your feedback the accent isn't a naturally Irish one, but more a "theatrical" version of it. And perhaps she is trolling after all.

Many people are strangers to themselves, and very suggestible. There are documented studies showing that when suicide hotlines open up in towns, suicides go up, for a depressing example. It's possible that this woman had heard about that syndrome and experienced a kind of "psychological contagion" that operated below consciousness. There was something about her saying "send help" at the end of the first segment of the 2nd video of her talking (above) that struck me as rather disingenuous. I mean, who was she making that video for and how was anyone going to 'send help'? To me there's a sense of her being more than a little 'tongue in cheek' about it.
 
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