Foreign accent syndrome

Can you imagine sounding like a foreigner speaking your own native language? Foreign accent syndrome (FAS) is speech disorder that causes a sudden change to speech so that a native speaker is perceived to speak with a “foreign” accent. Researchers believe it isn’t really the development of a new accent at all but a sign of damage to the area of the brain that controls the motor functions of speech, as it usually develops after neurological damage and a person’s speech, specifically it’s rhythm and tone, is affected.

It is usually the result of damage to the brain caused by a stroke or traumatic brain injury. Patients still use the words of their native language and their choice of words are mainly unaffected. However, the intonation and timing of the speech output is altered, as is their tongue placement, which makes the speaker sound like a foreigner to someone who is from their same region.

It is a rare condition first documented in 1907. About 100 cases have been documented in the last century, including accent changes from:

  • British English to French or Chinese
  • American English to British English
  • Spanish to Hungarian
  • Japanese to Korean

There are different types of FAS. As it has been mentioned before, one cause can be a head injury, however, it can be Psychogenic. In this case, FAS is psychologically induced, and it is associated with a psychiatric disorder or psychiatric traits.