A 94-year-old former English teacher from Hunan province is no longer able to speak Chinese and can only communicate in English after suffering from cerebral infarction, a type of ischemic stroke typically caused by a blockage in the blood vessels.
Doctors say the parts of Liu Jiayu’s brain related to her native language were damaged. Similar speech conditions, including Foreign Accent Syndrome, have been reported across the world and usually occur after the patient suffers a stroke or other brain trauma.
“These kinds of events are infrequent so being able to really study them in a consistent way is difficult,” Dr. Gregory O’Shanick, a US-based neurologist, told ABC News. Occasionally, there are “situations where people learning a second language will be better able to speak that language post-injury.”
O’Shanick explained that information related to a person’s native tongue is stored on the left side of the brain, while the ability to speak a second language (specifically one that was not mastered in childhood) comes from the right side.
In 2010, we wrote about a UK woman who woke up speaking with a Chinese accent after suffering from rare sporadic hemiplegic migraines.