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Last Updated: Monday, 10 July 2006, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
Brain bug changes woman's accent
Kath Lockett listening to a recording of herself before she fell ill
Foreign Accent Syndrome was first identified during World War II
A woman from Staffordshire who temporarily lost the ability to speak has begun talking again with a distinctive European accent.

Kath Lockett, 47, was struck down with a rare brain condition called severe cerebral vasculitis in 2004 and in March this year was unable to speak.

After treatment her speech gradually returned but now doctors believe she has Foreign Accent Syndrome.

A tape of her on BBC Radio Stoke may be her one reminder of how she once spoke.

Mrs Lockett's case is similar to that of Linda Walker, whose distinctive Newcastle accent had been transformed into a mixture of Jamaican, Canadian and Slovakian.

It is best not to think too long about yesterday and keep looking forward
Kath Lockett

Mrs Lockett said the pair spoke for the first time on Monday and have discussed helping doctors research the rare condition.

She told BBC News that people have told her she has a variety of European accents.

She said: "When I am out and start to speak, a lot of people think I am from a different country.

"They either say I am from Italy, Spain, France, Croatia, Hungary, Sweden or that I am deaf - that was a new one to me the other day.

"You take it for granted that you have your native tongue."

Clipping of vowels

She recently found a tape of herself speaking on BBC Radio Stoke, several years ago.

"It is best not to think too long about yesterday and keep looking forward," she added.

Researchers at Oxford University have found that patients with the condition have suffered damage to tiny areas of the brain that affect speech.

The result is often a drawing out or clipping of the vowels that mimic the accent of a particular country even though the sufferer has limited exposure to that accent.

The syndrome was first identified during World War II, when a Norwegian woman suffered shrapnel damage to her brain and developed a strong German accent.

Hear how Kath Lockett's voice has changed



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