Saturday, April 24, 2010

Foreign Accent Syndrome

I was reading my favorite newspaper this morning when I came across a news item about a Briton lady who suddenly and mysteriously acquired a Chinese accent after suffering from severe migraine. The lady claimed that she has never visited China and that her distinctive West Country drawl was replaced with a Chinese twang. Paramedics who assisted her during one episode of migraine attack told her that she sounded Chinese. Even her friends and stepdaughter couldn't recognize her on the phone and think that she's a prank caller because of her foreign accent. Well, it turned out that the lady was diagnosed with a rare and mysterious medical condition called the FOREIGN ACCENT SYNDROME. This rare condition has been documented already in 1941.

Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) is a rare acquired speech disorder which is generally caused by brain injury. Brain damage may be caused by stroke, trauma to the brain, brain hemorrhage and multiple sclerosis.

In majority of cases, stroke is the culprit. A certain part of our brain controls language-related activies. Brain damage affects the rhythm and melody of speech thus causes mispronunciations and speaking in a different pitch. Thus the person will appear to be speaking in a foreign accent. This change is caused by a wrong placement of tongue, uncontrolled rise and fall of the pitch and or the timing of a word pronunciation.

Other symptoms:

* Voicing errors (’wabbit’ for ‘rabbit’ or ‘pike’ for ‘bike’ etc.)
* Prolong vowel pronunciations (for e.g.- ‘yeah’ for ‘yah’)
* substitutions of vowels
* deletions of some consonants
* insertions of ’sss’, ‘uhh’ like sounds to words
* excess or little stress on words (different than their natural accent)
* changing sound quality by moving the tongue or jaw differently while speaking
* stringing sentences together in a wrong way
* substituting or using inappropriate words to describe something

The symptoms could last for months or years. A person with FAS may be able to speak easily without anxiety and could be understood by other people. The “accent” that the patient have adopted could be within the same language, such as American-English to British-English.

Since this condition is rare, the patient will have to be evaluated by a team of specialists which will include a speech-language pathologist, neurologist, psychologist and a neuropsychologist.

At present, there is no cure yet for Foreign Accent Syndrome. The best treatment option would be speech therapy and counseling.

Since FAS is closely associated with stroke, stroke prevention guidelines must be followed by individuals who are at risk.

*Below is a video about two British patients with Foreign Accent Syndrome


Lina Gustina said...'s new info for me

JENIE=) said...

wow, have not heard of this disorder. I simply thought they have an accent from some place...nice information scrib.

Nanaybelen said...

nice info.. thanks for sharing

Hunnybunny said...

Foreign Accent Syndrome is a rare acquired speech disorder which is generally caused by brain injury.

hmm thanks for the information.

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