Foreign Accent Syndrome

accent

A car crash, dental surgery, a migraine, hit by shrapnel, a seizure – all these incidents led to the same condition in different people and that condition is Foreign Accent Syndrome, (FAS.)

Of the approximately 60 to 70 recorded cases of FAS, patients include one Australian woman who began speaking with a French accent after a car crash; a British woman who began speaking with a Chinese accent after a serious migraine; and an American woman who began speaking in a mix of Irish, English and other European accents after dental surgery. The very first recorded case occurred in 1941 after a young Norwegian woman suffered a shrapnel injury to the brain during an air raid – she began speaking with a German accent afterward and was ostracized as a result by people who thought she was faking the accent.

A common misconception among people meeting someone with FAS is that the FAS patient is able to speak a second language. Most FAS patients are actually monolingual and none of them acquire the ability to speak the language from which their accent derives. (There is one case, which is probably not considered FAS, of a Croatian girl who fell into a coma and woke up having lost the ability to speak Croatian but being able to speak fluent German.) [source]

I found it interesting as I researched that most of the cases I encountered were of Anglo women, but then I discovered the case of a man in England who began to speak with an Italian or Greek accent and an Australian boy who spoke with an American accent. Still, the vast majority of people with FAS seem to be women and I’m unable to find information of this occurring in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Whether this means it hasn’t occurred there or simply that the cases weren’t recorded as FAS, remains to be seen. (I can imagine that some cases could have been disregarded as mental illness.)

For some people this condition is a source of depression, frustration and embarrassment. Some people feel like they’ve lost a part of their identity – other people embrace it as a new identity.

How do you think you’d react to one day waking up with Foreign Accent Syndrome? Is there an accent you wouldn’t mind having? Which accent would you not want to have? How do you think it would affect your daily life?

Related Articles and Videos:

CNN – Australian Car Crash Victim Acquires French Accent

CNN – Video: Instant New Accent/Jeanne Moos reports

NPR – A Curious Case of Foreign Accent Syndrome

Video: Embarrassing Bodies – Foreign Accent Syndrome

Common Features of FAS

Video: Foreign Accent Syndrome on My Strange Brain – Part I
Video: Foreign Accent Syndrome on My Strange Brain – Part II
Video: Foreign Accent Syndrome on My Strange Brain – Part III

Aquí y Allá

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Image source: Antonio Méndez Esparza - All Rights Reserved

Image source: Antonio Méndez Esparza – All Rights Reserved

A veces veo una película o un documental, que me deja sin palabras – Aquí y Allá es una de ellas. Es difícil decir lo que pienso o siento por esta película. Es devastador, inquietantemente bella, me dolía el alma. Siendo muy honesta, la noche que vi la película, yo lloré hasta que me quede dormida, pensando en ella.

Aquí y Allá es parte ficción, parte realidad. Es la historia de inmigración contada desde el otro lado, cuando un mexicano regresa a México, a su familia. Pedro de los Santos, la estrella de la película, interpreta a sí mismo, y muchas de las cosas que le pasaron a él, fueron reales. La mujer que interpreta a su esposa, es en realidad su esposa. La música que canta, es música que él escribió. (Y aparte de la película, su música, su voz, son realmente muy hermosas.)

Siento que mis palabras no pueden hacer justicia a esta película. Sólo mírala, si tienes la oportunidad. (Averigüe dónde puede verla aquí.)

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Sometimes I see a film or a documentary that leaves me without words – Aquí y Allá is one of them. It’s hard to say what I think or feel about this film. It’s devastating, hauntingly beautiful, it hurt my soul. To be perfectly honest, I cried myself to sleep thinking of the film the night that I saw it.

Aquí y Allá is part fiction, part reality. It’s the immigration story told from the other side, when a Mexican returns to Mexico, to his family. Pedro de los Santos, the star of the movie, plays himself, and many of the things that happen to him, happened for real. The woman who plays his wife, is actually his wife. The music he sings, is music that he wrote. (And apart from the film, his music, his voice, are really very beautiful.)

I feel that my words can not do justice to this film. Just watch it, if you get the chance. (Find out where you can see it here.)

Xenophobia and The Boston Bombings

foreigner_latinaish

The Boston marathon bombings – I didn’t think I would be writing about this, but here I am. Like most of you, I’ve been watching way too much TV, reading too many articles on the internet, and when torn away from those, listening to the radio in my car. Like most of you, I’ve had a lot of feelings the past few days on many different angles of this tragedy.

Tonight, the second suspect has been captured and it’s “over” … and yet it isn’t. I hear my fellow Americans chanting, “USA! USA! USA!” … and it seems somehow inappropriate. I understand relief. I understand pride in our first responders. I understand feeling some sense of justice or closure – but the all-out celebration, taking to the streets like revelers on New Year’s Eve? I can’t connect with it.

Those who died, are still dead; those who are mourning, are still mourning; those who are injured, are still injured. Those innocent people who were mistakenly caught up in the investigation, are still dealing with the resulting emotional damage. The young suspect in custody, if he survives, will face a long trial, all of which we will once again watch as if it’s some sort of sick reality show/telenovela hybrid.

After everything is said and done, we are left with scars – and some of those scars were inflicted on our society by the media, by irresponsible journalists. The use of racial profiling and the xenophobic language exhibited by journalists of networks I once respected, has disgusted me. It’s as if the journalists salivated at the idea that the suspects might be Muslim, as if that explains everything, when that fact alone explains nothing. That is why I’m writing this – It’s why I created a video – because at first, I couldn’t find words.

Maybe you’re not Muslim – most people who read my blog are not. Maybe you’re saying, “What does this have to do with me?” – Believe me, it has everything to do with all of us. The sentiments stirred up by the media, intentionally or unintentionally, are not only anti-Muslim, they are anti-“foreigner”, anti-brown person, anti-accent, anti-bilingualism, anti-immigrant. They are sentiments that divide and quite frankly, we’re better than this as a people, as a nation, and we deserve better than this from our news agencies.

If you agree with me, please consider sharing this video far and wide.

Olores y Cultura

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Image source: Marie Hale

Image source: Marie Hale

¿Cómo afecta tu cultura a tu sentido del olfato y las cosas que crees que huelen bien y las cosas que crees que huelen mal?

En un artículo que leí, hacen el argumento que aprendemos nuestras preferencias olfativas. ¿Qué interesante, no?

Unos ejemplos puedo dar de mi vida: A mi, me gusta el olor de zorrillo y también el olor de gasolina. Yo sé que son olores muy ofensivos para mucha gente, pero estos olores están ligados a buenos recuerdos de mi niñez.

También, olores que normalmente se consideran agradable en una cultura, pueden convertir en ser ofensivos para otros. Por ejemplo, el olor que llamamos “cherry” (cereza, pero cereza artificial como usan en paletas y chapstick), me encanta. Tengo bastantes buenos recuerdos con el olor “cherry” – pero mi suegra odia el olor y el sabor de “cherry” americano. (Digo “cherry americano” porque ella le gusta cerezas naturales.)

Siempre cuando hice una jarra de jugo sabor “cherry”, mi suegra empezó a quejarse de “el tufo.”

“Hiede a sapuyulo!” ella me decía.

Yo no sabía lo que era sapuyulo pero es una fruta, también conocido por el nombre “zapote” o “mamey” en algunos países. Mi suegra me explicó que cuando era niña, tuvo que tomar sapuyulo por un remedio casero o usar lo en forma de jabón, no recuerdo exactamente pero de cualquier manera no le gustó – y por eso el olor de “cherry” le molestaba mucho.

¿Y tú? Cuáles son tus experiencias entre olores y cultura? Cuáles olores te gustan? Cuáles olores no te gustan? Y cómo afectan tus buenos o malos recuerdos a los olores que te gustan o no te gustan?

Nota: Mil gracias a mi amiga Claudia quién me dijo como deletrear “sapuyulo.”

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

How does your culture affect your sense of smell and the things you think smell good and the things you think smell bad?

In an article I read, the argument is made that our olfactory preferences are learned. Interesting, right?

Some examples I can give from my life: I like the smell of skunk and the smell of gasoline. I know these are very offensive odors for many people, but these scents are tied to fond memories from my childhood.

Also, scents normally considered to be nice in one culture may be offensive in others. For example, the scent we call “cherry” (cherry, as in the artificial cherry scent used in popsicles and chapstick), I love very much. I have many fond memories of the “cherry” scent – but my mother-in-law hates the smell and taste of American “cherry.” (I say “American cherry” because she likes natural cherries.)

Whenever I used to make a pitcher of cherry-flavored juice, my mother-in-law would start complaining of “the bad smell.”

“That stinks like sapuyulo!” she’d say.

I didn’t know what sapuyulo was but it turns out it’s a fruit, also known by the name “sapote” or “mamey” in some countries. My mother-in-law explained to me that when she was a child she had to take a home remedy made of sapuyulo or that she had to use it as a soap, I can’t remember exactly how it was, but either way she hated it – and that’s why the smell of “cherry” bothered her so much.

And you? What are your experiences with smells and culture? Which scents do you like? Which scents do you dislike? How do your good or bad memories affect the scents you like or dislike?

Note: Many thanks to my friend Claudia who told me how to spell “sapuyulo.”

Cinco de Mayo Means Bring on the Stereotypes

For the most part I’m not the kind of person to be easily offended by stereotypes. Life is too short and there are way too many ways to be offended by things that aren’t politically correct. It’s difficult to say why one thing doesn’t bother me, but something else gets under my skin.

For example, the whole Mexican Barbie thing? If I were a little girl, I’d love to have that Barbie, and if I had a daughter, I’d buy it for her. I think it’s awesome that she has a passport, and all the dolls in the collection do. Her dark wavy hair is so pretty and being a brunette myself, I always favored dark-haired Barbies over the blondes. The ballet folklorico dress is nice although it could be more detailed, and the Chihuahua, well, I think that may have been a lazy decision, (isn’t the Xoloitzcuintli the national dog of Mexico?) – but all that being said, I’m not offended by the doll.

Really, my only major problem with Mattel’s Dolls of the World collection, (besides my usual complaints about Barbies contributing to unrealistic body ideals), is that they stuck with many of the same countries that are already represented in these types of toy lines. When will we teach kids about lesser known countries? Ask any kid in the United States to name a country that speaks Spanish and you’re almost guaranteed they’ll say “Mexico.” … In other words, when will we see a Salvadoran Barbie? (Or Honduran, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, Costa Rican, Panamanian… you get the idea.)

Image source: LShave

Image source: LShave

If Mattel needs help designing the Salvadoran Barbie, I’m available. Imagine the colorful dress, the leather chancletas, maybe a cántaro or a bouquet of Flor de Izote. You could have a cachiporra version with a bastón, and a vendedora version in a delantal that comes with a comal full of pupusas. How about a Salvadoran version of the Ken doll? He could wear traditional dress with a scapular and a cowboy hat – he could carry a capirucho or maybe a modern version sporting una camiseta de La Selecta and holding a Pilsener. (Okay, maybe not.)

Speaking of beer, Cinco de Mayo is fast upon us which means every Mexican beer, tortilla chip, and salsa company is gearing up to bring in the pesos. Here is a display for Corona which I spotted at a Wal-Mart.

corona1

corona2

As I was saying, for the most part I’m not the kind of person to be easily offended by stereotypes, (they’re somewhat necessary to understanding the world we live in), and this doesn’t really offend me as much as it makes me roll my eyes. However, this stereotype of Mexicans – sombrero, sarape or poncho, and burro, (although I guess Corona decided to get “creative” and use a horse?) is getting a little old, isn’t it? Besides, they totally forgot the big mustache and the cactus for nap time after the fiesta is over.

Clotilde Arias, the role model I didn’t know existed

Jreadingmanuscript

In 2006, ahead of nationwide Immigration Reform rallies, a Spanish version of The Star-Spangled Banner was released by Wyclef Jean, Olga Tañon, Pitbull, Ivy Queen, Gloria Trevi, Aventura, Tito “El Bambino”, and Carlos Ponce. There was quite a bit of controversy surrounding the song called “Nuestro Himno” and I, like many others, mistakenly thought that this was the first time the national anthem of the United States had been translated to Spanish.

I learned on a recent trip to The National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., that The Star-Spangled Banner was actually translated by Peruvian immigrant, Clotilde Arias in 1946, commissioned by the U.S. government under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy” – an effort to win allies in Latin America after World War II. The original manuscript for “El Pendón Estrellado” is featured in the museum along with the fascinating life history of Arias.

As I walked throughout the exhibit, I just kept thinking, how interesting it is that we choose role models from our limited knowledge of people both living and dead, when in reality there are so many amazing but little known people in history like Clotilde Arias who we can relate to and be inspired by.

Here I’ll share some of the exhibit but for those who live in the D.C. area, I encourage you to make a visit in person – there is plenty more to see.

Image source: The National Museum of American History

Image source: The National Museum of American History

Clotilde Arias was born in Iquitos, Peru in 1901, but it’s her life in the United States which I related to, (and I think many other women will, too.) Here is an excerpt of text which I read on the wall of the exhibit.

“Clotilde Arias arrived in New York City in 1923…Arias intended to study music. In 1929 she married José Anduaga, a Peruvian artist and designer from Iquitos whom she met in New York and with whom she had a son, Roger. They lived in 267 Park Street in Brooklyn. In many of her personal papers she described how difficult life was and how she had to abandon her studies to help support the family.

Arias mastered multitasking at a time when women commonly did not work outside the home. Throughout her life she wore many hats: translator, composer, musician, journalist, copywriter, activist, educator, and of course, mother. She was sometimes all of them at the same time.” – National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.

I must have stood there and read that at least three times. Clotilde felt so real in that moment because juggling all these hats is a frequent topic of discussion among women today. I really felt like you could take Clotilde Arias out of history and plunk her down in the social circles I run in, amongst my group of Latina bloguera friends especially, and she would fit right in.

Arias did freelance work for various brands, like this recipe for Velveeta.

Arias did freelance work for various brands, like this recipe for Velveeta.

Am I the only one who wants to try the Quesadilla con Camarones recipe? … Arias did all kinds of work for different brands including writing jingles and copy. As a bilingual person with music and writing skills, she was in high demand even during The Great Depression. Some of the brands she worked with included Ford Motor Co., IBM, Coca-Cola, Alka-Seltzer, and Campbell’s Soup.

Arias used this Underwood No. 5 typewriter.

Arias used this Underwood No. 5 typewriter.

Arias' translation of Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

Arias’ translation of Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

Arias became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1942.

Arias became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1942.

Carlos and I were really surprised by how unchanged the Naturalization Certificate is to this day. Carlos’s certificate looks very similar.

The newspaper clipping headline reads: "The Union of South American Women Wants Spanish Required in Our Schools."

The newspaper clipping headline reads: “The Union of South American Women Wants Spanish Required in Our Schools.”

Clotilde Arias and these other women were so incredibly ahead of their time. According to the museum exhibit, “Arias was well-known not only for her professional work, but also for her activism and membership in organizations such as the Red Cross, Inter-American Association of Musicians (which she founded), and American Association of Teachers of Spanish. Language became an important ideological vehicle to express the sense of American unity. Arias and other members of the Union of South American Women advocated for making Spanish a required subject in all U.S. schools.” … And yet bilingualism still isn’t given the priority it deserves in our education system. The debate goes on and our children, as well as our nation, fall behind.

What did you find most fascinating about this exhibit and the life of Clotilde Arias? Could you relate to her, too?

Related Links:

An Immigrant’s Star-Spangled Banner en Español – NPR.org

Not Lost in Translation: The Life of Clotilde Arias – Si.edu

Can a Salvadoran Gang Save an Endangered Language?

Image source: Markarinafotos

Image source: Markarinafotos

“Every 14 days a language dies. By 2100, more than half of the more than 7,000 languages spoken on Earth—many of them not yet recorded—may disappear.” – National Geographic/Enduring Voices Project

A recent report by El Diario de Hoy about how Salvadoran gang members are learning Nahuat, caught my eye.

Members of La Mara Salvatrucha (also known as MS13), have been instructed by gang leaders to learn Nahuat and other indigenous languages of the Central American country; languages which are highly endangered or almost extinct, and some of which have less than 100 native speakers currently living, according to the report.

Unfortunately, the gang’s purpose of learning these languages isn’t at all altruistic and they have no intention of learning the languages fluently. Gang members have been instructed to learn enough vocabulary to create an indecipherable code which will make it more difficult for law enforcement to intercept their messages.

This is disappointing, of course, although maybe not surprising. We’re left then with the same question linguists always face: How can Nahuat and other endangered languages be saved? Is it enough to merely preserve records of the languages, (such as the video below), or should efforts be made to keep languages alive by encouraging native speakers to pass it on? What sort of encouragement or programs would be successful? Is it a losing battle? What do you think?

Links:

Learn Nahuat – Free Resources Online
Video: El Carbonero in Nahuat
Video: Himno a El Salvador en Nahuat
National Geographic: Enduring Voices Project