Sarah Colwill, a 35-year-old British woman, is now speaking, somewhat inexplicably, with a Chinese accent after suffering an extreme migraine, according to reports in the UK press. Doctors suspect Colwill has Foreign Accent Syndrome, a rare condition which damages the part of the brain that controls speech and word formation. There are only 60 recorded cases of the condition.
While the syndrome may sound absurd - Colwill herself admits that she found it amusing at first - it can be extremely frustrating for its victims.
"I spoke to my stepdaughter on the phone from hospital and she didn't recognize who I was. She said I sounded Chinese. Since then, I have had my friends hanging up on me because they think I'm a hoax caller," Colwill said.
"The first few weeks of the accent was quite funny but to think I am stuck with this Chinese accent is getting me down. My voice has started to annoy me now. It is not my voice," added Colwill.
"It's in our ears," says Professor Sophie Scott, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, tells The Guardian. "Speech may be altered in terms of timing, intonation, and tongue placement, so that is perceived as sounding foreign."
Colwill is now receiving treatment for the syndrome.