Xenoglossy (Spontaneous Language / Accent Acquisition)

Dick Turpin

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#91
I also wonder how fluent her accent would have been, having only studied the language to O level 30 years previously. Still fascinating though. Having said that some people seem to have an ear for languages. My father had to leave school at 16 but studied German for a year before he left. Some 30 years later he visited Germany on a couple of occasions and the locals apparently refused to believe he was not German. (could of course trying to be kind). He could easily translate German when I was studying it in the early 70's , some 40 years after he had been at school. The brain is a strange thing indeed.
I do recall many years ago a patient in the North West awakening from an induced coma (due to brain injury) speaking Spanish even though he had never learned the language. A Spanish nurse was brought in to communicate with him. Fortunately he recovered fully, but could no longer speak Spanish.
I find this fascinating.

Yes the human brain is an amazing thing.

There was an incident some years back where a (British) lady who had sufferd trauma to the brain through an accident, had awoken in hospital speaking English but in a Chinese accent.

The documentary makers rather patronisingly started off the hour long doc, by her ordering a Chinese take-a-way on the telephone.

It was very funny though.
 

PeteS

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#92
I'm one of those people. I recently started learning Swedish and it didn't take long at all for me to get fluent in the course material. I also once picked up Italian to the point where I could haggle in the markets after only a few days of being there
Interesting. I've often wondered whether the ability to pick up languages goes along with a better than average memory (mine is poor). Do you have a good memory?
 

Lizard King

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#93
There was also the case of the American Chiropractor {I think he was) who was featured in a programme about brain injuries. He suddenly became very artistic and couldn't stop drawing. I think he has now exhibited his work worldwide. I've since learned that there is such a thing as brain injury aquired autism. This is where the brain injured person can suddenly find they have a new "talent or gift" in a particular field. There is a good docu on youtube about a young guy who now sees everything in geometric shapes and equations after being assaulted and suffering a brain injury.The problem with these new found talents/gifts is the inability to "switch"them off.As in the case of the Chiropractor, he had to draw all the time, which as you can imagine impacted greatly on his life.
 

James_H

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#94
I find this fascinating.

Yes the human brain is an amazing thing.

There was an incident some years back where a (British) lady who had sufferd trauma to the brain through an accident, had awoken in hospital speaking English but in a Chinese accent.

The documentary makers rather patronisingly started off the hour long doc, by her ordering a Chinese take-a-way on the telephone.

It was very funny though.
This will be the one:


I wouldn't say this is particularly a 'Chinese' accent, though parts of the rhythm and phonemes here and there match. At other points I hear Jamaican and 'African' (this is much broader category than 'Chinese' of course). I guess the point is it's an auditory illusion: because her speech patterns are hard to place, we end up matching the bits that we can to a style of speaking we recognise, then filling in the blanks.

As far as I understand, most of 'foreign accent syndrome' is due to this kind of pareidolia, but cases of people apparently being able to speak a whole new language suddenly are another thing entirely. As others have said, it would be great to be able to fact check the news in the OP and see if she can really speak French.

I wonder if cryptomnesia might be involved – perhaps all her O-level French was lying dormant in her memory for all this time, and a forced rewiring of the brain caused it to resurface for some reason.

Sometimes paranormal experiencers also develop sudden new talents (painting, singing) after their experiences. I wonder if the phenomena are related – in both cases we seem to have an area of the brain opening up following a significant event.
 

James_H

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#95

Here's a Texan woman with an 'English' accent. It's pretty close actually but a little bit off. You'll notice she puts a glottal stop when she says 'kidding', which I don't think is present in any accent in England. It might sound English to Americans though, because we may use a glottal stop for the 't' sound, and in some American accents 't' is pronounced very like 'd'. So presumably in her native accent 'kidding' and 'kitten' are pronounced as homophones. They aren't in English accents, but she is still treating them as the same. (I read a very interesting article or maybe reddit post about this phenomenon. Basically where Americans go wrong doing British accents [and vice-versa, I'm sure] is that they won't notice the difference between sounds that are merged in their own accents. For example, a Californian will pronounce both 'cot' and 'caught' as 'caht'. When it comes to 'translating' to an English accent, they will keep the merger and choose one of the vowel sounds for both, for example pronouncing both 'cot' and 'caught' as 'caught'. "My baby is sleeping in her caught".)

It's hard to tell if the rhythm of speech is different, as it clearly is in the first example, but the phonemes have been changed. One of the reasons the lady sounds 'Chinese' in the first example is that her timing resembles the syllable-timed rhythms of Chinese languages, i.e. syllables are given equal emphasis and time, which is not usually the case in English.
 

Mrs Migs

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#97
My 13 year old niece spent nine months in hospital last year, two months of it in a coma. She had - has - autoimmune encephalitis. When she came round she’d completely lost her Midlands accent, and was broad South Wales Welsh. Maybe not that surprising as her dad’s side of the family are from South Wales, but her father has a barely perceptible accent. She still - a year after coming round- sounds really Welsh.
 

dejanmikic

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#98

Here's a Texan woman with an 'English' accent. It's pretty close actually but a little bit off. You'll notice she puts a glottal stop when she says 'kidding', which I don't think is present in any accent in England. It might sound English to Americans though, because we may use a glottal stop for the 't' sound, and in some American accents 't' is pronounced very like 'd'. So presumably in her native accent 'kidding' and 'kitten' are pronounced as homophones. .

Coming from continental Europe but dealing everyday with both UK and US speaking colleagues - I believe that there is some issue with tongue muscles of some sorts. I can still hear her trying to say things in American English but there is some kind of mechanical feature changing the way she says things - it is for me some muscular blockage and it is really simulacra it sounds British
 

James_H

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#99
Coming from continental Europe but dealing everyday with both UK and US speaking colleagues - I believe that there is some issue with tongue muscles of some sorts. I can still hear her trying to say things in American English but there is some kind of mechanical feature changing the way she says things - it is for me some muscular blockage and it is really simulacra it sounds British
I think you might be dead right. A lot of the difficulty in learning how to properly pronounce foreign languages is in retraining the tongue and throat so they will make unfamiliar shapes – the phonemes we're used to are drilled into us since birth. If for whatever reason, there was some issue with the muscles in those places being able to make the shapes they were used to, we'd be making different phonemes when talking and as you say it would sound like a foreign accent by simulacra/pareidolia.
 

brownmane

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Apparently, when children first learn speech, there is a window of time in which they can learn any language. Once they have developed past this stage, ie have learned their mother tongue, there are sounds that they will not learn. This is one of the reasons, for example, that Chinese speaking people have difficulty pronouncing the English letter "L". And is it Finnish that is quite a difficult language to learn to speak?
 

Skrymr

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I think you might be dead right. A lot of the difficulty in learning how to properly pronounce foreign languages is in retraining the tongue and throat so they will make unfamiliar shapes – the phonemes we're used to are drilled into us since birth. If for whatever reason, there was some issue with the muscles in those places being able to make the shapes they were used to, we'd be making different phonemes when talking and as you say it would sound like a foreign accent by simulacra/pareidolia.
English is a very lazy tongue to speak too

My 13 year old niece spent nine months in hospital last year, two months of it in a coma. She had - has - autoimmune encephalitis. When she came round she’d completely lost her Midlands accent, and was broad South Wales Welsh. Maybe not that surprising as her dad’s side of the family are from South Wales, but her father has a barely perceptible accent. She still - a year after coming round- sounds really Welsh.
It was after Viral Encephalitis my language ability really kicked off, hmmmm
 

James_H

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English is a very lazy tongue to speak too
What does that mean exactly? I know that certain sounds that native English speakers think are 'easy' are difficult to impossible for speakers from different first languages. /Th/ (both kinds), /r/, /l/ etc.
 

EnolaGaia

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What does that mean exactly? I know that certain sounds that native English speakers think are 'easy' are difficult to impossible for speakers from different first languages. /Th/ (both kinds), /r/, /l/ etc.
Conversely, some nuances used to differentiate letters or phonemes in other languages are blurred together in English, making it difficult for English speakers to grasp the nuances when listening and / or reasonably emulate them when speaking.
 

Spudrick68

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I used to be able to speak a little Flemish, this only resurfaced as I now work with a colleague who is from near Brugge so I recap a little of what I knew with him.

Certain sounds in Flemish are remarkably difficult for an English person to pronounce. Like the sound 'sch' as in schip, and the 'oe' sound for example.
 

hunck

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A variation on the theme:

I was talking to the pie man at the farmers market, [best pies around] who told me about a guy he knew of who'd had head trauma, don't know how, maybe a car accident, was in a coma for a while & when he came round he'd turned into an extremely vocal racist which he apparently wasn't before.

He was HMRC & used to visit businesses but had to be removed from his role as he could no longer stand coloured people of any type & got extremely abusive.

The subject came up as I told him I don't have any sense of smell since hitting my head in a bike accident. His guy also lost his sense of smell as well as gaining the additional racism.
 

Mythopoeika

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A variation on the theme:

I was talking to the pie man at the farmers market, [best pies around] who told me about a guy he knew of who'd had head trauma, don't know how, maybe a car accident, was in a coma for a while & when he came round he'd turned into an extremely vocal racist which he apparently wasn't before.

He was HMRC & used to visit businesses but had to be removed from his role as he could no longer stand coloured people of any type & got extremely abusive.

The subject came up as I told him I don't have any sense of smell since hitting my head in a bike accident. His guy also lost his sense of smell as well as gaining the additional racism.
Maybe he was already racist but suppressed it? The brain injury may have made that difficult.
 
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