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J R Soc Med. 2004 July; 97(7): 360.
PMCID: PMC1079544

Language and brain injury

In the patient described by Dr Coughlan and her colleagues (May 2004 JRSM1) the French accent that developed after a stroke turned out to be a disturbance of native speech patterns. I was reminded, however, of a case of head injury in which several languages were lost and serially regained. On a visit to London the patient, a Belgian who lived in Greece and was fluent in many languages, looked the wrong way and was knocked over by a passing car. For three days her whereabouts were unknown, and the Belgian Embassy eventually traced her to the National Hospital, Queen Square. It emerged that, on admission to the hospital, she had spoken a language that no-one recognized. This was Flemish. As she improved, she reacquired English and later Greek. She made a full recovery from the head injury, and the languages returned in the order she had learnt them.


1. Coughlan T, Lawson S, O'Neill D. French without tears? Foreign accent syndrome. J R Soc Med 2004;97: 242-3 [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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