Can you imagine going to bed and waking up sounding like you’re from another country? What if you you started talking in a foreign accent and weren’t able to stop? That’s exactly what happened to Kay Russell, a British woman who went to sleep with a severe migraine and woke up speaking in what sounds like a French accent.
According to the BBC, Ms. Russell apparently has what’s called “Foreign Accent Syndrome,” a rare condition in which injury to the brain, in this case caused by the migraine, results in the afflicted person exchanging their normal accent for what sounds like a foreign one. As researcher Sophie Scott explained to the BBC, “People might put little vowel sounds in their speech, so they might-a sound-a little-a like-a this — that’s read by English speakers as being an Italian accent.”
To an outsider, it might sound glamorous to wake up with a foreign accent, but it’s actually an incredibly disorienting experience. Friends tend to be put off by it, and strangers treat you like you’re a foreigner even if you’re still in the same city you’ve lived in all your life. As Scott explained, “It’s not only that you don’t sound like who you are. You don’t sound like the others around you either.”
Also, people who speak with real foreign accents generally have the benefit of being bilingual. Unfortunately for people with Foreign Accent Syndrome, a second language is not part of the package.
The disorientation produced by this disorder has taken on its toll on Ms. Russell, and she has apparently lost her job since the accent mysteriously appeared. She told the BBC that she wanted to place a lost and found ad for herself, saying “Maybe at the end of the day someone could find me.”