Foreign Accent Syndrome – observe and report

It’s with great passion that I seek to assemble news and reports on Foreign Accent Syndrome. Since I first acquired it in May 2009, I have been astounded at how little information there is on this medical condition. Because it is an extremely rare condition (with between 50-100 cases worldwide — ever); it is even harder to find information about FAS. It is even MORE difficult to find “quality” reporting on it. So when I find it, I want to share it!  Perhaps those who come along behind me with a brand new occurrence of FAS, will have somewhere to obtain real, useful information amongst all the cynical, critical and downright nasty comments that some have put out.

A PERSONAL BLOG –Even though I had read this blog post some time ago, I believe that it is so nicely done that I thought I’d share it here. Notice how the author, Arthur Greenblatt, does such a nice job of incorporating the news of the day with an event in his own personal life: 1) the facts are clearly stated. 2) Although there is an outside article as an anchor to his post, he has cited the source, date, publication and author 3) The source he used presents a lot of foundational information on Foreign Accent Syndrome.

I will give the link to his personal blog post here >>> Arthur’s Days Blog post on FAS

A VIDEO ==Above is a video of Ms. Robin Jenks Vanderlip describing the challenges in her life and speech after suffering a head injuryin 2007 that  resulted in what doctors call Foreign Accent Syndrome. Vanderlip, a Pennsylvania native, speaks with what sounds like a Russian accent. (this comes from the same Washington Post article cited below).  SEE how much actually watching and hearing for yourself adds to the authenticity of the post?!

AN EXCELLENT ARTICLE –The Article, Fairfax Woman Developed Russian Accent After Head Injury, By Brigid Schulte. Washington Post Staff Writer, Sunday, May 30, 2010 is excellent at presenting facts in an interesting personal approach without sensationalism. Here is why I believe it is A+ Article:

A) The History of Foreign Accent Syndrome

B) Individual Cases of Foreign Accent Syndrome

C) Some noticeable distinctive features of the pronunciations and differences with Foreign Accent Syndrome

D) Names, at least one sufferer and one researcher/doctor plus many other examples of cases where names are not given, but features are.

E) The PERSONAL experience of sufferer being further harmed by public pundits statements and the added poor public opinion that such generates.

All of these together, make me wish to extend a “heroin of journalism for the sake of the sufferer” award to Ms. Schulte. This is one example of effective, well done journalism that I wish to continue to broadcast!

Since 2009 I have been amassing numerous articles and tried to contact fellow FAS sufferers. There is now a group of us who are in contact from around the world who are there to support one another in the unique challenges that arise with speaking all the time in a foreign accented voice with which we were neither born nor able to change back.

Perhaps Mr. Schulte or some other journalist of such skill will take another look at the newer cases and any new research being done with this very rare condition that seems to be less rare now as more and more cases are emerging. The first step toward fighting ignorance is GOOD reporting. Plus, there is something that makes it all the more effective when reporting about Foreign Accent Syndrome is done to show the personal side of the story!


What do you think about this post?  Your opinion matters! What you think and ask can help us all make new discoveries, so please feel free to add a comment or question below. Thanks.

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.

Some Recent News FAS videos

One of the most important things that we who suffer from Foreign Accent Syndrome wish to do is to find out not only why we are having the problems that we do, but also to help grow the collective understanding of not only of the disorder but most especially the PEOPLE who are currently suffering, their care, their care-givers and loved ones and those who have yet to step into those positions.

Therefore, I am very happy to add to my blog these links to these news stories which were done by JAX TV station in Florida. It is exciting to see some media attention being given to the disorder. Let some people who believe that this is not a “real” problem become less ignorant by getting a little exposure and also help those who are currently dealing with similar stories to take heart.

Here are recent videoes done with fellow Foreign Accent Syndrome friends of mine done by local Florida news TV stations.

This first one is a longer raw interview with Dr. Jack Ryalls from University of Central Florida. He is well known for his expertise in this field of study of the very rare disorder. So it is especially good to hear his insights in this more lengthy piece on what is involved in Foreign Accent Syndrome from his perspective.
Interview with Dr. Jack Ryalls Fox30

Pattie Yakaboski,
Pattie: Finding Her Voice

Video of Paula Westberry
Paula on JAX 2011.11