A British woman was struck with a chronic migraine which left her speaking with a permenant – CHINESE accent.
Stunned Sarah Colwill, 38, had a West Country drawl until she woke up one day sounding like she was from the Far East.
Doctors diagnosed Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS), a rare condition brought on by an acute migraine which damages the part of the brain controlling speech.
It is a one-in-250 million condition and there are just 20 recorded cases in the world.
Despite lengthy elocution lessons and speech therapy, the married IT project co-ordinator continues to sound Chinese and suffers teases and taunts.
Married Sarah, who has two step-daughters, stars in a new BBC documentary, “The Woman Who Woke Up Chinese”, about the bizarre affliction.
Sarah, of Plymouth, Devon, said: “It’s just been such a horrible thing to go through.
“People automatically assume I’m foreign, for a start, then they like to try and work out where I might be from.
“I say Plymouth, and they say, no originally? People say to me, go on make an order – order fried rice.
“You don’t even know who you are anymore. It’s like you’re trapped inside yourself.”
Experts say FAS causes a ‘drawing out’ or ‘clipping’ of the vowels that mimics an accent even though the patient has limited exposure to that country.
Suffered have typically suffered severe migraines and headaches like the one Sarah experienced in March 2010 on the night of her sudden transformation.
Another victim, Kay Russell, 52, from Gloucestershire, who appears in the documentary, endured severe headaches for years before a migraine left her with a French accent.
FAS was first identified during the Second World War when a Norwegian woman was hit by shrapnel during an air raid.
She suffered brain damage and developed a strong German accent, which led to her being ostracised by her community in 1941.
Professor Nick Miller, one of only a handful of FAS experts across the globe, said: “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?”‘
Other cases include a 46-year-old American who began speaking in a French accent following a car crash, a British man sounding Mexican, a Norwegian developing a German accent, and a Portuguese man sounding Chinese.
The documentary aired last night on BBC One.
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