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Wendy Hasnip talks to BBC News Online
'There are worse things than a French accent'
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Monday, 20 December, 1999, 18:42 GMT
Stroke gives woman French accent

wendy hasnip Wendy Hasnip now has a French accent

A woman who suffered a minor stroke now cannot stop speaking in a French accent.

Wendy Hasnip, who does not speak French and has only been to the country once for a weekend trip to Paris, has been left with a Gallic accent.

Mrs Hasnip, 47, of Sevenoaks, Kent, previously had a Yorkshire accent before the stroke at the beginning of November.

There are much worse things than being left with a French accent
Wendy Hasnip
Doctors have identified the condition as a possible case of Foreign Accent Syndrome, which is known to have affected a handful of people world-wide.

It is thought to be linked to the way in which the brain tissue is damaged after a stroke, though it is not fully understood by neuro-psychologists.

Mrs Hasnip said: "I was OK for a fortnight, then I began to stammer, which turned into an up and down voice. By the end of the week I was speaking as I am now.

"I don't speak French, I didn't do O-level French, I have no contact with France at all."

She has been speaking with a French accent for three weeks and has been advised she may get her normal voice back, though this could be any time from days to years.

She added: "I have been laughing my way through it from the beginning. There are much worse things than being left with a French accent."

The first known case of the condition occurred during World War Two when a Norwegian woman was struck on the head, leaving her with a German accent, which caused her to be ostracised by her local community.

Dr Jennifer Gurd, co-director for the Medical Research Council's neuro-psychology unit in Oxford has been researching foreign accent syndrome for 15 years.

She said: "What we find very interesting about the changes in accent is that they may be indicating that in the human mind there is a separate, independent module for accents and human language.

"The changes that we have observed have shown that they are consistent with changes belonging to a foreign accent."

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