Foreign Accent Syndrome: What You Should Know

After seeing again and again the myriads of unkind remarks made about Foreign Accent Syndrome sufferers, I’ve decided that I must get much more active about blogging again.  So here are some facts for those who wish to inform themselves.

Not to say that there are not some people who are good at impersonations and mimicry. BUT to say that Foreign Accent Syndrome is a “mental” disorder instead of an actual “neurological” disorder shows that a person has not do their research. There is such a thing as “conversion disorder” which is a mental condition that can cause all kinds of body, speech and behavioral dysfunction. However, this is NOT what Foreign Accent Syndrome is.

In Foreign Accent Syndrome there has been actual neurological damage done to the speech area of the brain. The main  “speech area” of the brain is called the Broca area. In some way the neural-network has been damaged. The brain has been traumatized through accident, stroke, migraine, etc. People who wish to make fun of that should consider the people they hurt in doing so. Implying that ALL such cases of dramatic accent changes are fake is demonstrating ignorance, foolishness or worse, disregard to someone who is suffering from a REAL physical malady.

With under 100 medically diagnosed cases in the world…ever… Foreign Accent Syndrome is only just getting talked about as some of our cases are getting discovered and blasted all over the press and web. So at this point, ignorance outweighs knowledge. Sensationalism is tramping all over educational journalism. So let’s get educated!

The numerous slams and cynical remarks posted across the internet is one of the main reasons we don’t hear of more legitimate cases, no doubt. It is fearful for the general public to realize that BOOM suddenly this person started speaking with a different accent. Plus they can’t just change it back!

When you get to hear about these people’s real lives, they are no different than YOU! The fear that people feel of the unknown, and not having a way to assure it doesn’t happen to them may be one excuse why they lash out and try to deny it even exists.

Some neurologists who have studied those of us who are enduring it know that a fake accent cannot be maintained. The true patient suffering from FAS cannot maintain their “original voice” accent while they are suffering from Foreign Accent Syndrome.

An FAS person has to undergo monumental thought processes to speak, and when they do the listener detects an accent (that they were not born with, nor studied, nor were exposed to). The neural pathways that are used in speech production have been changed due to the damage to the brain. So the resulting speech sounds foreign. There is still much need for more research.

When they talk in their sleep, on the phone, to themselves . . . it still comes out sounding ‘foreign’. It is NOT a sideshow to gain attention. It is a phenomena so very rare that it is routine for even the doctors in their hospital to have never seen a case before meeting them.

So PLEASE don’t attack Foreign Accent Syndrome people this way. It is unkind. Rather, inform yourselves. I have a web page (ellen5e dot com) or look up Foreign Accent Syndrome Awareness group on FaceBook and ask questions. Talk to some of us who have had it a few years and you might actually learn something amazing.