Italian man ‘turns French’ after brain injury

An Italian man has reportedly turned into a French man after suffering from brain damage. While suddenly making a total switch to the French language may sounds like a dream for many expats, it was the reality for an Italian man who suffered a brain injury. The 50-year-old Italian can now speak “movie-like” French and poses as a “caricature of a French man” after he suffered a serious head traumaHe even calls “bonjour” from his bedroom window each morning. His only real interest in French before the injury was briefly dating a French woman while he was in his twenties, but he now has a passion for French films, books and food. The University of Edinburgh recently released a report detailing the case in the journal Cortex.

They said that the patient had never “manifested a particular attachment to French culture or French cuisine” and had studied French at school but not spoken it “for decades“.

The report states, “[His] French is full of inaccuracies, yet he speaks it in a fast pace with exaggerated intonation using a movie-like prosody and posing as a typical caricature of a French man.”

“He uses French to communicate with everybody who is prepared to listen; he speaks French with his bewildered Italian relatives, with the consultants; he spoke French even in front of the befuddled committee deciding on his pension scheme.

“He shows no irritation if people do not understand him when he speaks in French.”

The man does continue to write in Italian, despite his insistence to speak in French.

“He claims that he cannot but speak French, he believes that he is thinking in French and he longs for French movies (which he never watched before), buys French food, reads French magazines and seldom French books, but he writes only in Italian,” the report continued.

The 50-year-old has also shown other behavioural abnormalities, including delusions of grandeur, sleep disturbances and unjustified euphoria that he has aptly labeled “joie de vivre”. This rare but not unique medical phenomenon is called compulsive foreign language syndrome. Approximately 60 people worldwide have been recorded speaking in a foreign language after head trauma.

brain injury – lesione cerebrale

to suffer from – soffrire di

switch – cambio

head trauma – trauma cranico

injury – ferita, danno, lesione

passion for – passione per

to release – pubblicare

to detail – descrivere, elencare

attachment – attaccamento

cuisine – cucina

decade – decade, decennio

inaccuracies – inesattezza, imprecisione

exaggerated – esagerato, eccessivo

prosody – intonazione

bewildered – sbalordito, frastornato

befuddled – confuso

committee – comitato, commissione

pension scheme – regime pensionistico

insistence – insistenza, tenacia

to long for – desiderare ardentemente

seldom – raramente

behavioural – comportamentale

delusion – illusione, allucinazione

sleep disturbances – disturbi del sonno

aptly – adeguatamente

phenomenon – fenomeno

True or False?

  1. An Italian man started to speak English after a brain injury.
  2. He was not interested in French before the head trauma.
  3. The Oxford University recently released a report on the phenomenon.
  4. He studied French at school, but did not use the language before his injury.
  5. The 70-year-old man has not shown behavioural abnormalities yet.

1-F, 2-T, 3-F, 4-T, 5-F


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