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What is the condition known as Foreign Accent Syndrome?

What are the symptoms and treatments for Foreign Accent Syndrome?

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In 1907, a French neurologist Pierre Marie was the first to describe foreign accent syndrome. This is a condition wherein a person’s accent changes after suffering from a brain injury. One of the earliest occurrences suffering such condition was that of a Norwegian woman in 1941. It was reported that her head was hit by shrapnel during German air strike causing brain damage. The moment she recovered, she was observed speaking a heavy German accent and was not able to speak in Norwegian accent again. Because her doctors were unable to provide substantial information of her condition, people suspected her as a German secret agent.

Foreign accent syndrome has less than 20 cases reported worldwide since 1941. Medical experts originally assert that the condition is psychological in nature. However, the syndrome usually happened after patients suffered brain injury or stroke and exhibit changes in their accent when they would start to recover. Experts are more convinced that the condition was caused by impaired brain function, specifically on the region for language production. Thus, it’s not that the patient acquired a new accent rather, the accent they tend to adopt was their native language but in a damaged form. There are series of tests given for foreign accent syndrome patients. Yet, there is a very less percentage for one to completely recover.

The said syndrome may involve damaged section in the brain but it’s not actually a deadly condition. Since communication is part of everyday life, foreign accent syndrome may cause frustration for the patient who would struggle to regain his native accent and would then likely to develop anxiety when dealing or talking with people. How the patient take his condition would still depend on his resiliency to changes – if he would choose to be troubled or just go on with a new life.

Recently, it was claimed in July 2012 that the English singer George Michael suffered from the foreign accent syndrome. He was in a coma due to pneumonia and when he recovered, his North London accent turned into West Country accent – still a British accent but has evident difference.

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