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18076Foreign Accent Syndrome: 'The Woman Who Woke Up Chinese'

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    Sep 7, 2013
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      Watch three videos of Sarah Colwill on Pulse:



      By Ruth Styles
      Daily Mail
      September 3, 2013



      How would you feel if one day you awoke to find your Glaswegian, Home
      Counties or West Country tones inexplicably gone, with a French, Danish
      or even Indonesian accent in its place?

      38-year-old Sarah Colwill doesn't have to wonder. On March 7, 2010, she
      woke up to discover that her customary Plymouth pronunciation had gone
      -- replaced by Chinese enunciation.

      Sarah is one of the handful of people to be diagnosed with Foreign
      Accent Syndrome, a condition so rare there were just 61 confirmed cases
      between 1941 and 2012.

      So what is it like to live with a voice that is not your own? A new BBC
      documentary, The Woman Who Woke Up Chinese, aims to find some answers.

      The star of the show is Colwill herself, whose bizarre Chinese accent is
      completely at odds with her looks, background and experiences.

      After suffering a severe migraine, Colwill was rushed to hospital only
      for doctors to be left baffled after she developed a strong Chinese accent.

      'It's just been such a horrible thing to go through,' she sobs in the
      opening scenes of the documentary.

      'People automatically assume I'm foreign, for a start, then they like to
      try and work out where I might be from.'

      Sarah is seen getting her hair cut in a Plymouth salon, where the
      hairdresser asks where she's from and how long she has lived there.

      It's all the more galling because Sarah has lived and worked in the city
      all her life.

      It's perhaps no surprise then, that since that fateful 2010 day, Sarah's
      focus has been almost entirely on getting her voice back.

      But with doctors and scientists equally mystified, it's been a struggle.
      There is one clue though -- Sarah is a migraine sufferer.

      She gets them, she says, around 10 times a month and so far, medics have
      been unable to find anything that gets rid of them completely.

      This could be important, as one of the few things known about Foreign
      Accent Syndrome is that its linked to headaches and is thought to be a
      type of neurological brain damage.

      Fellow sufferer, Kay Russell, 52, who also appears in the documentary,
      suffered severe headaches for years before a particularly bad migraine
      left her with a French accent in place of her habitual Gloucestershire

      'Up until I met Kay, I thought I was the only person in the world that
      this happened to,' says Sarah, sadly.

      'You feel so alone so when somebody pops up and says "actually, I have
      it", you feel better. You think "they sound foreign and they have to
      deal with it in the same way as me"'

      One of the world's few experts in Foreign Accent Syndrome, Professor
      Nick Miller, adds: 'There are some common threads that run through their
      stories. There's a lot of frustration about "why me?" and "why is nobody
      able to explain why this has happened to me?"'

      As yet, there is no cure for Foreign Accent Syndrome. Sufferers can have
      voice therapy but at present, little more can be done.

      That hasn't stopped Sarah from looking. 'You don't even know who you are
      anymore,' she says of the condition. 'It's like you're trapped inside


      By Emily Thomas
      The Huffington Post
      September 5, 2013



      When Sarah Colwill, 38, was hospitalized for an intense migraine in
      2010, she awoke to an astounding sound -- her voice.

      Her familiar English accent had been replaced by what sounded like a
      poor impression of a Chinese person, leaving doctors scratching their heads.

      Her predicament was a side effect of a rare neurological condition
      called Foreign Accent Syndrome.

      Colwill is one of just 150 confirmed cases ever of FAS, according to the
      Independent. The condition is most often caused by damage to the brain
      brought on by a stroke or traumatic brain injury, UT Dallas reports.

      In a new BBC documentary ??The Woman Who Woke Up Chinese,?? which aired
      Tuesday, Colwill??s life with an alien voice proves to be less like an
      episode of Summer Heights High and more like a nightmare.

      "It's just been such a horrible thing to go through,?? Colwill says
      teary-eyed in the opening scenes of the documentary.

      "You don't even know who you are anymore...It's like you're trapped
      inside yourself."

      Certain scenarios explored in the documentary make the condition seem
      near comical: Colwill??s asked to say "chopsticks" by her speech
      therapist, the pressure she receives to order fried-rice at a restaurant
      and the necessity of avoiding certain phrases.

      Colwill explains, "I always say 'you can not', because otherwise it
      comes out, 'you c***'."

      But the symptoms of her illness are much more tragic. They also include
      a loss of vocabulary and physical pain while trying to write English.

      In the BBC doc, Colwill finds solace with a fellow sufferer of FAS, Kay
      Russell, 52, who after a terrible migraine was left with a French accent
      in place of her British accent.

      "You feel so alone so when somebody pops up and says "actually, I have
      it," she says on camera. "They sound foreign and they have to deal with
      it in the same way as me."

      According to NBC??s chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman, speaking in
      a segment on the Today show in 2011, some cases have reportedly cleared
      over time.

      While there is currently no cure for FAS, one clue that may help
      scientists understand the condition is migraines. Colwill says she gets
      them around 10 times a month. Russell also suffered for years from
      terrible headaches.

      In recent years there have been similar cases of others waking to the
      startling discovery of a new lint. In 2012 an Englishman, Alun Morgan,
      awoke from a massive stroke to find that he spoke fluent Welsh, despite
      never learning the language.

      In June, an Australian woman spoke out about her personal struggle with
      FAS for eight years, having developed a French accent after surviving a
      car crash in which she broke her back and jaw.



      Wikipedia on Foreign Accent Syndrome

      Pulse on Past Life Research

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