A woman in England woke up after suffering a stroke speaking with a Chinese accent, caused by the rare condition Foreign Accent Syndrome. What is worse is that she has been told that this is a permanent condition.
Sarah Colwill, 40, lives in Plymouth and used to speak with a strong Devon accent. She has never visited China. However, according to medical staff, who have tried everything possible, she is stuck with the new Chinese accent.
— Irish Daily Mirror (@IrishMirror) July 6, 2015
Due to her weird condition, Colwill says her life is now a living Hell. She has lost her job, her home and her previous life due to the Foreign Accent Syndrome and various other side effects of the stroke.
According to experts, the syndrome is caused by a “drawing out” or “clipping” of the vowels that then makes her speech sound like the Chinese accent, even though she has never visited the country.
Colwill says her neurologist has signed her off and that the condition will now be permanent. It was bad enough suffering the stroke with all the side effects of that condition without the Foreign Accent Syndrome heaped on top.
“They’ve tried various treatments; they’ve tried everything, but nothing makes a difference.”
“When I think about how much my life has changed, it is devastating. Being told I would be like this forever was a heartbreaking thing to hear. It was a real bombshell.”
According to the Daily Star, Colwill is trying to stay positive and says she is “still the same person inside.” She is trying not to dwell on how bad things are now and how much she has lost and is gradually coming to terms with it.
“I think how lucky I am to be able to still do what I do and try and find a positive in every day.”
“I am still the same person inside. Of course, people who did not know me before have met a totally different person – but I am still Sarah from Plymouth.
The stroke and resulting Foreign Accent Syndrome happened five years ago after ten years of suffering intense head pain.
She says her accent doesn’t cause so many difficulties nowadays, although some people have trouble understanding her, which is frustrating. She has difficulties sometimes when her speech is really bad but she cannot make her voice sound any different.
“I had never been to China before and had a strong Plymouth accent.”
Apparently friends and family have adjusted to her new accent, but when she meets anyone new, they ask her where she is from. She then explains that she has a medical condition and tells them about the Foreign Accent Syndrome, and while people feel sorry for her, she says they shouldn’t. She is learning to cope and continue her life as close to normal as possible.
However, the Foreign Accent Syndrome was only one of the problems Colwill suffered from. She has many health problems due to the stroke and struggles to get through each day.
When the stroke happened, she had to give up her job as an IT project coordinator and now has to sell her home, as she can no longer afford the mortgage payments and can no longer work.
“My speech is just one aspect; I have many other brain problems which make it impossible to work.”
“I have migraines all the time and I have to use a wheelchair because my brain doesn’t know how to communicate with my body anymore.”
“There is nothing wrong with my limbs, but my brain can’t tell them when to move.”
“I can be totally paralyzed for 10 minutes or ten hours and it happens randomly.”
As reported on the Inquisitr, back in 2013, the BBC aired a documentary about Sarah’s medical problems called “The Woman Who Woke Up Chinese.” The BBC hoped that by airing the documentary it would tell the public more about Foreign Language Syndrome and also draw out other sufferers of the condition and any specialists who might be able to assist. An extract from the documentary is included at the end of this article.
However two years further down the line, doctors have exhausted all possible treatment plans and Conwell’s condition is here to stay. In the video above she says that she is coping.
Foreign Accent Syndrome is so rare that so far only 50 known cases of Foreign Accent Syndrome have been identified in the world.
According to the Mirror Online, the first recorded incidence of Foreign Accent Syndrome was identified in 1941 during World War II, after a Norwegian woman was hit with shrapnel during an air raid.
The woman suffered brain damage and then started speaking with a strong German accent, leading to her own community ostracizing her.
[Image: Screengrab from YouTube video]