Task: Work assignment

Exercise 14 - Objective Report or Subjective Opinion

Published: 29.06.2010, Updated: 30.03.2011

The following text is shortened from a text in The Sun on April 20th, 2010. Read it and answer the questions at the end.

FRUSTRATED Sarah Colwill has started speaking with a CHINESE accent in a bizarre reaction to severe migraines. Sarah, 35, has suffered from acute headaches for the past decade, but last month they suddenly became more intense. Since then her speech altered and she has no idea when it will return to her native West Country burr.

Sarah, of Plymouth, Devon, believes she has Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) — an extremely rare condition normally associated with strokes or other brain trauma. "I am frustrated to sound like this, I just want my own voice back, but I don't know if I will get it back. I have never been to China. I was born in Germany but I moved here when I was 18 months old so I have always spoken like this."

Sarah, an IT project coordinator, lives with husband Patrick and has been diagnosed with rare sporadic hemiplegic migraines. They cause the blood vessels in her brain to expand resulting in stroke symptoms including paralysis down one side of the body. After researching FAS on the Internet Sarah has been in contact with doctors from the US and Oxford University who are interested in studying her plight.

John Coleman, a professor of phonetics at Oxford University, said: "FAS is extremely diverse, almost certainly not 'one thing', not a well-defined medical phenomenon.”

Experts believe FAS is triggered following a stroke or head injury, when tiny areas of the left side of the brain linked with language, pitch and speech patterns are damaged. The result is often a drawing out or clipping of the vowels that mimic the accent of a particular country, even though the sufferer may have had limited exposure to that accent. It is not actually a foreign accent, but the sufferer may lengthen syllables, alter their pitch or mispronounce sounds, which makes pronunciation sound similar to a foreign accent.

One of the first reported cases was in 1941 when a young Norwegian woman developed a German accent after being hit by bomb shrapnel in an air raid. As a result, she was shunned by her community, which falsely believed she was a German spy.


  1. Does this text belong to the same genre as the one in exercise 11? If not, what is different? Which genre would you put this one in?
  2. Do some research to find out what a West Country burr (paragraph 1) sounds like.
  3. The Sun invites comments from their readers on their articles. These are two comments on the text above:
    • Where is her migraine medication manufactured? 
    • It’s when she starts selling dodgy DVD’s that there’s a problem.
      What is implied by each?


Suggested key

  1. The text in exercise 11 is an advertisement for a job in the health care sector in North Yorkshire. The text in exercise 14 belongs to a different genre. It can be called a personal story intended to amuse and intrigue.
  2. The descriptive label West Country burr refers to an accent feature often heard in counties such as Cornwall, Dorset and Devon (counties in the south-west of England). It is characterised by a long and noticeable ‘r’-sound.
    The task text asks about “like a Janner”. But it is not included in the answer.
  3. Both comments are jokes, made ‘tongue-in-cheek’. The first one implies that she suffers this speech defect because her medication is produced in China.
    The second implies that we will not have a problem until she starts selling fake DVDs, the way the Chinese flood the market with their pirate copies.