Foreign Accent Syndrome

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A report from last Tuesday's Guardian begins thus:

Sarah Colwill initially found it amusing when a series of migraines caused her native West Country accent to be displaced by a Chinese lilt. But after a month, the joke is wearing thin for the 35-year-old IT project co-ordinator. "I have never been to China," she says. "It is very frustrating and I just want my own voice back."


Another recent news story that fits into a similar paradigm is that of the "Croatian teenager wakes up from a coma speaking fluent GERMAN."  A psychiatrist mentioned in this Daily Mail (Online) article is quoted as saying:

"In earlier times this would have been referred to as a miracle, we prefer to think that there must be a logical explanation — its just that we haven't found it yet.

"There are references to cases where people who have been seriously ill and perhaps in a coma have woken up being able to speak other languages — sometimes even the Biblical languages such as that spoken in old Babylon or Egypt – at the moment though any speculation would remain just that — speculation — so it's better to continue tests until we actually know something."

This reminds me of some pentecostal churches I attended as a little boy where members of the congregation (also referred to as "Holy Rollers") would engage in glossolalia or "speaking in tongues."

I'm as suspicious of the Foreign Accent Syndrome as I am of "speaking in tongues."  In any event, I'd like to hear the "Chinese lilt" of Sarah Colwill to determine just how "Chinese" it really is.  And it would be interesting to hear just how good the young Croatian girl's German is and to find out how much German she had studied before allegedly acquiring fluency in that language while in a coma.

I've known people who can mimic accents uncannily well after hearing them spoken for only a few moments.  My son, Thomas Krishna, is particularly talented in this respect, and so was the late Michel Strickmann, a professor of Taoism at UC Berkeley.  But mimicking is an intentional, voluntary phenomenon, and makes no pretense toward actual mastery of another language.  Foreign Accent Syndrome and the other two cases discussed above are ostensibly involuntary and pretend to varying degrees of competence in another language than one's own.

[A tip of the hat to Bruce Balden.]

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52 Comments »

  1. Rubrick said,

    April 27, 2010 @ 6:48 pm

    This delightful video seems quite apropos.

  2. Ray Girvan said,

    April 27, 2010 @ 6:50 pm

    VM: I'd like to hear the "Chinese lilt" of Sarah Colwill

    YouTube: Sarah Colwill Speaks With Chinese Accent.

  3. kuri said,

    April 27, 2010 @ 6:58 pm

    Foreign Accent Syndrome and the other two cases discussed above are ostensibly involuntary and pretend to varying degrees of competence in another language than one's own.

    I don't think that's correct in the case of Foreign Language Syndrome. All that's happening there is that brain damage causes a speech problem that makes people "sound foreign" in ways that mimic certain accents. It doesn't create genuine foreign accents.

  4. Jangari said,

    April 27, 2010 @ 7:11 pm

    If I recall correctly from a course in psycholinguistics that I took some years ago in which we looked specifically at Foreign Accent Syndrome, it amounts to very mild aphasia (typically occurring after a stroke) which affects perhaps one or two articulatory motor skills. So, perhaps they don't place the tip of the tongue properly or something. The apparent foreign accent is merely the effect of observers interpreting the situation.

    The case we looked at was an English woman who suffered a stroke and apparently sounded Scottish thereafter. Listening to the recordings, it becomes clear that she doesn't sound Scottish at all, but instead has lost the ability to make a regular English alveolar glide 'r' and instead makes a trill – which is a salient feature of Scottish English.

    The difference here is that she didn't suffer a stroke, but the accent sounds no more Chinese than the English lady sounded Scottish, if you ask me. I'm no neurologist, but perhaps the migraines she suffered were symptomatic of a very mild stroke.

    Don't know about the German situation, but I too would be very sceptical if she had only rudimentary knowledge of German before the coma and woke up 'fluent'. Perhaps this quote in the Daily Mail report is telling:

    …numerous doctors have examined the 13-year-old including German-speaking doctors to try and get to the bottom of the mystery.

    So, German-speaking doctors talked to the girl, but the Daily Mail have no quote with respect to her fluency? I smell a bit of bullshit.

    Oh, and glossolalia? Sorry but it's absolute nonsense. Watch any old youtube video of people speaking in tongues and you'll quickly come to the conclusion that either God really loves reduplication in its extreme form, or that these people are just blabbering.

  5. Mark Liberman said,

    April 27, 2010 @ 7:18 pm

    There's some discussion of Foreign Accent Syndrome, and links to some of the scientific literature on it, in "Notes from the ESL Trauma Unit", 9/15/2007.

  6. YM said,

    April 27, 2010 @ 7:21 pm

    Poe, Murders in the Rue Morgue:

    But in regard to the shrill voice, the peculiarity is not that they disagreed—but that, while an Italian, an Englishman, a Spaniard, a Hollander, and a Frenchman attempted to describe it, each one spoke of it as that of a foreigner. Each is sure that it was not the voice of one of his own countrymen. Each likens it—not to the voice of an individual of any nation with whose language he is conversant—but the converse. The Frenchman supposes it the voice of a Spaniard, and 'might have distinguished some words had he been acquainted with the Spanish.' The Dutchman maintains it to have been that of a Frenchman; but we find it stated that 'not understanding French this witness was examined through an interpreter.' The Englishman thinks it the voice of a German, and 'does not understand German.' The Spaniard 'is sure' that it was that of an Englishman, but 'judges by the intonation' altogether, 'as he has no knowledge of the English.' The Italian believes it the voice of a Russian, but 'has never conversed with a native of Russia.' A second Frenchman differs, moreover, with the first, and is positive that the voice was that of an Italian; but, not being cognizant of that tongue, is, like the Spaniard, 'convinced by the intonation.' Now, how strangely unusual must that voice have really been, about which such testimony as this could have been elicited! –in whose tones, even, denizens of the five great divisions of Europe could recognise nothing familiar!

    (It turned out to have been a really extreme case of FAS.)

  7. Catsidhe said,

    April 27, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

    Glossolalia is, I think, recognised to be babbling: content and grammar free. It is an entirely different thing from Xenolalia, which is spontaneous. uncontrolled and comprehensible speech in an actual recognisable foreign language. (And, for some strange reason, much, much rarer.)

    And I agree with the above: the video I have seen of this woman indicate to my ear a slight speech impediment, which sounds 'Chinese' mainly because of the way it blurs her pronunciation of 'r' and 'l'.

  8. Nate Clark said,

    April 27, 2010 @ 8:42 pm

    On FAS (from the abstract of Blumstein & Kurowski, 2006)

    Based on a review of the literature and our own work, we propose that the foreign accent syndrome is properly considered a syndrome and that it is distinct in both its characteristics and underlying mechanism from an apraxia of speech, a dysarthria, and an aphasic speech output disorder. We hypothesize that a deficit in linguistic prosody underlies the foreign accent syndrome. And finally, we argue that the foreign accent syndrome emerges as a consequence of damage to the dominant language (usually left hemisphere) speech output motor system affecting the primary motor cortex and either its cortico-cortical connections or its cortico-subcortical projections.

  9. Mark F. said,

    April 27, 2010 @ 8:55 pm

    It's not just the 'r' and 'l' pronunciations. She also seems to be consistently dropping the "ed" endings on her past tense verbs e.g., "then it sound more Eastern European." Still, I agree that "reminiscent of a Chinese accent" would be more accurate.

  10. Nanani said,

    April 27, 2010 @ 8:59 pm

    The Croatian coma patient had German-speaking doctors.

    I wonder, is it possible that she heard them while in the coma? Unconciously, it goes without saying, absorbing more of the language? She almost certainly would need to have had some instruction in the language beforehand, of course.

    Calling anything a miracle or inexplicable just means that we stopped trying to figure it out, not that it really is inexplicable. I would place my bet on the side of the bullshit detector.

  11. SRM said,

    April 27, 2010 @ 9:21 pm

    This article in Discovery News has a possible explanation of the Croatian case:
    http://news.discovery.com/human/coma-croatian-girl-german.html

  12. Charles Gaulke said,

    April 27, 2010 @ 10:25 pm

    Regarding Ms Colwill's dropping "ed" from the end of her past-tense verbs, I wonder if that aspect of her 'accent' is psychogenic? I don't mean that she's faking, but upon noticing the lack of distinction between her own R's and L's, and identifying that as a feature of Chinese speech, it seems perfectly reasonable that she might unconsciously adopt other features she associates with the same accent. Without regularly taken recordings of her speech beginning at the moment her speech changed, it's impossible to say how consistent the ed-dropping has been over time, whether it increased in frequency over some period, etc.

    I suppose it would be very difficult to set up a study that could really differentiate, though, and in terms of how she's treated it wouldn't make much difference.

  13. Charles Gaulke said,

    April 27, 2010 @ 10:27 pm

    "…recordings of her speech beginning at the moment her speech changed…"

    That's what happens when I rewrite a sentence more times than I reread it.

  14. John Cowan said,

    April 27, 2010 @ 10:30 pm

    Mimicry can be a conscious, voluntary phenomenon, but it's not always, as I can testify. It is only through a conscious effort that I prevent myself from adopting the accent (in English) of people I talk with. If I relax that effort, I immediately acquire a subset of my interlocutor's phonology, and if it goes on for a while, I even take on their diction. When I went to Ireland for a few weeks, it immediately became second nature to reply to "Are you on holiday, then?" with "I am".

  15. Adouma said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 2:33 am

    @Mark F.

    I actually found her dropping the 'ed' and a few other morphological errors rather suspect, especially because they were intermittent and she made no move to correct them. I wonder how far those were a symptom of her condition (i.e. she couldn't move her tongue fast enough to make a /dəd/ sound) and not just her playing into the role of the accent.

    Doubly so because she sounded a lot more Eastern European when saying "Eastern European."

  16. Stan Carey said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 3:15 am

    Sarah Thomason's assessment (1995) of xenoglossy is here (PDF, 82 KB).

  17. v said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 4:58 am

    Hm, who's claiming the Croatian girl was "fluent" in German? I don't recall such a thing being claimed in the Croatian articles about it.

  18. Ray Girvan said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 5:05 am

    VM: I'd like to hear the "Chinese lilt" of Sarah Colwill

    There's also one big data point missing: what she sounded like before. Apart from the allegedly Chinese accent, the other reported aspect is losing her "native West Country drawl" – how strong was her regional accent? Plymouth accents can etch glass, and are strongly rhotic, but she doesn't sound like some old Janner, and maybe had a more RP accent to start with.

    And is there are relevance (re the possibility of reactivating old accents) to her being German-born? Although the reports say she came to Britain at 18 months, was she exposed to German, via parent(s)/relatives, for longer than that?

  19. Robert T McQuaid said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 7:05 am

    A not-completely-substantiated report says that after Mel Blanc, voice of many cartoon characters, suffered a head injury in a car accident, he could communicate only in his Bugs Bunny voice.

  20. Milt Boyd said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 7:45 am

    Sid Caesar was noted for his ability in comedy skits to mimic "accents" of languages he couldn't speak. He claimed it came from hearing in his youth the various boarders in his household speak to each other in their native languages. He got down "the sound" of each language, without learning vocabulary or grammar.

  21. George said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 8:12 am

    @Catsidhe

    "Glossolalia is, I think, recognised to be babbling: content and grammar free."

    I remember reading some time ago that the phonology of glossolalia conforms to the phonology of the speaker's native language.

  22. rick said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 8:29 am

    you can listen to an interview with her on cbc's as it happens:

    http://www.cbc.ca/radioshows/AS_IT_HAPPENS/20100422.shtml

    they play a clip of what she sounded like before, too

    i'm kind of not buying it, but check it out.

  23. JHH said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 8:49 am

    @George:

    Word Play: What happens when people talk, by Peter Farb, 1974. A popular book. Has a few pages on glossolalia, and says that the phonology, stress, and intonation is based on the speaker's native language (and any extraneous exposure to other languages).

  24. Cecily said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 9:10 am

    The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics (by P H Matthews, OUP, 2007) gives an interestingly judgemental definition of glossolalia:

    ‘Speaking in tongues’: i.e. uttering sounds under conditions of religious ecstasy that are believed, wrongly, to be in unknown languages.

  25. Army1987 said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 10:16 am

    I once read the story of someone able to speak Russian who didn't remember how he learned it, and eventually found out that he had been a next-door neighbour of a Russian-speaking family until the age of 5.

    @Charles Gaulke:
    I hadn't even noticed anything weird in that sentence…

    @John Cowan:
    A vaguely similar thing which sometimes happens to me is I talk with someone with an accent very different from mine, and one or two days later, when talking to someone else, I involuntarily pronounce a phrase with that accent, for no apparent reason (even if the rest of the sentence is in my ‘normal’ accent).

  26. Clay said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 11:24 am

    A guy I knew was (before I knew him) in a pretty severe traffic accident, and when he came to in the hospital, he began speaking in Spanish. I believe he had studied Spanish in school previously.

  27. Victor Mair said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 11:49 am

    @Rick

    Can you extract the relevant clip from the relevant "As It Happens" segment? I'm really eager to hear Ms. Colwill before and after she acquired her "Chinese" accent, but am not sure how to locate the correct segment(s) of the three parts for "As It Happens" listed at the URL you kindly gave us.

  28. rpsms said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 11:50 am

    She sounds more like a mildly deaf person.

  29. Emily said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

    I have a cousin who speaks in tongues; she considers it a very religious thing.

    However, it mostly sounds like German. When she was small (3-6), her dad was posted in Germany, and she lived on the base there. She was surrounded by people who spoke English, and never went to school in German, and never learned German. (No one in her family studied the language.) However, she was exposed to random people speaking it when she went to the shops with her mom.

    My working hypothesis has always been that her early-life exposure to a different sound system made a small but real impact on her language systems, and has surfaced in adulthood with speaking tongues when in the right sort of frame of mind.

  30. YM said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

    I once heard a group of caged magpies chattering. They'd been caged and exposed to human visitors for many years, and I could swear they were speaking English. I would listen very closely and would almost catch a real word every once in a while.

  31. IrrationalPoint said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 2:12 pm

    Actually, difficulty speaking or facial numbness affecting speech as symptoms of migraines aren't all that uncommon — I'm sort of surprised that the primary source of FAS data seems to be people who have had strokes or major injuries and not people who have migraines. I would have thought that people with migraines would probably be easier to study than people who have had strokes or major injuries (although of course, not every migraine that included speech symptoms would necessarily result in FAS.)

    –IP

  32. Ben Hemmens said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

    Reminds me a bit of Andrew Sachs of Fawlty Towers / Manuel fame, who years later did a travel/language show about Spain. Joke being of course that he'd never been there and never knew a word of the language before.

  33. Ben Hemmens said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

    ‘Speaking in tongues’: i.e. uttering sounds under conditions of religious ecstasy that are believed, wrongly, to be in unknown languages.

    I don't know how widespread the belief is that they are actually speaking other languages, I don't think it's very prevalent.

    I wouldn't put down babbling, I think human babbling is itself a pretty sophisticated phenomenon. My 6-week old daughter is acquiring a little repertoire of noises and I guess stringing a few noises together is on the horizon. Takes a lot of brainwork, when she has a lucid chattery phase, you can almost hear the wheels grinding away and she gets pretty tired pretty quickly. But then we do the most basic things by the route of brainwork and learning – I doubt many other mammals have to learn to suckle. I think it's interesting to reduce vocal expression to babbling without language, there's a lot of our communication that we do with sounds that are not necessarily words. Scat singing is another example.

  34. Assistant Village Idiot said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

    Yes, Cecily, that does strike me as judgemental. I don't believe them to be actual languages myself, but a negative is hard to prove, and CODL oversteps by making that claim. One could communicate extreme doubt without resorting to "wrongly."

    They are being concise, though.

  35. Darryl Shpak said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 5:27 pm

    Regarding spontaneous ability to speak in other languages: I once met a woman who, while in the hospital with (I believe) some type of brain infection, apparently spoke fluent Tagalog. Her family was Filipino, and she has had significant exposure to Tagalog, but says that, apart from this incident, she has a low level of understanding of the language and can barely speak it.

    Naturally, I've got no documented evidence to say exactly how "fluent" she suddenly became, but this at least strikes me as an plausible.

  36. Jangari said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 7:06 pm

    Hm, who's claiming the Croatian girl was "fluent" in German? I don't recall such a thing being claimed in the Croatian articles about it.

    Probably a complete fabrication of the Daily Mail, which used the word 'fluent' in its headline.

    Re: Ben Hemmens, fair enough about babbling and scat being considerably more sophisticated than glossolalia. I absolutely agree; the babblings of a child learning language are a fascinating way of the child to navigate their newly enabled speech organs.

    Glossolalia, on the other hand, consists of people repeating passages like:
    "papapapapapapatatatatatatasasasasasasasasasasasasasasasasasa"
    As I said, God must really love reduplication.

  37. Dan Lufkin said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 8:30 pm

    @ YM

    We ought not to forget Hoover, the late talking seal of the New England Aquarium in Boston. He was orphaned and raised by a couple on the coast of Maine. He had the pitch, vowels and rhythm of a Maine lobsterman just perfect.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoover_%28seal%29

    A pair of mocking-birds (Victoria and Albert) nested in our yard for years and drove our old cat crazy with their meowing. No question at all but that they were deliberately teasing him. They had no fear at all of us humans.

  38. B K said,

    April 28, 2010 @ 9:36 pm

    @John Cowan

    Comforts me a bit to read that others find themselves involuntarily imitating the speech of non-native English speakers. I often get made fun of for it. Completely beyond my control, though. It's unfortunate, because my spouse is not a native speaker. Everyone at work knows when I'm talking to her on the phone.

    When you think about it, it makes sense that we would have some circuitry that helps us involuntarily imitate the speech of others that we're speaking to–must be part of how social and regional varieties arise. I don't think we speak using some particular variety (or varieties) because we only or predominantly *hear* that variety. I think it's at least partially because we unconsciously imitate the people we speak *to* (especially the ones we want to associate ourselves with).

  39. Ben Hemmens said,

    April 29, 2010 @ 5:55 am

    "fair enough about babbling and scat being considerably more sophisticated than glossolalia."

    That's not what I said. I actually meant to say that as far as I can see scat, glossolalia and babbling are similar phenomena. I don't know how representative my experiences of religious glossolalia are, but they were certainly much more sophisticated than you suggest. Probably there are wide variations in the kind of noises and patterns produced in different groups.

    Another thing that fascinates me are certain types of free jazz, where the musicians make all kinds of apparently syntax-free noises with various objects and instruments as well as voices. I've experienced at least one group where the interaction of the musicians sounded like a conversation: the things each of them were doing sounded in some way like "right" answers to what the others were doing. Possibly imitating patterns of noises that we are used to as background in various environments …

  40. stormboy said,

    April 29, 2010 @ 7:23 am

    @rpsms: "She sounds more like a mildly deaf person."

    That was my initial impression too – certainly more so than Chinese.

  41. Joshua Riley said,

    April 29, 2010 @ 10:24 am

    Foreign Accent Syndrome properly understood is usually a sequela to a stroke or, more rarely, other sorts of brain injury. Neurologically, it is characterized by small, focal lesions that (usually) spare primary motor cortex. It is seen very, very often transiently after stroke, but for most people it resolves in a few months. FAS is usually used to refer to people who don't recover from this. Critically, true FAS doesn't lead to someone having a particular foreign accent; rather, they simply no longer sound like a native speaker of their own language to other native speakers while continuing to be completely fluent and not having other aphasic difficulties.

    Linguistically, FAS is probably best characterized by pitch disturbances (often taking the form of much less pitch variation than pre-morbidly) and highly sporadic phonemic errors, but none of the substitution of non-speech sounds you get in something like apraxia of speech. For some reason, most FAS sufferers are women – this is probably related to differential ability to recover from stroke damage between biological sexes that is seen a lot in the neurological literature but is very poorly understood.

    Blumstein and Kurowski 2006 is a good review; the Journal of Neurolinguistics also had an entire issue dedicated to Foreign Accent Syndrome in 2007, I believe. For imaging and FAS, this paper is good: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a725742501&db=all

    I have a bit of a vested interest in this syndrome, as I currently have a paper under review with Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience on the topic, but I just wanted to make it clear that FAS is very much a real disorder. The patient I work with found her condition to be extremely distressing, and seriously impacted her job prospects (career involved public speaking on a regular basis). It's a terrible thing to no longer sound like yourself, and while I understand skepticism, I would hate to think that this post might be used by someone ill-intentioned to "prove" that FAS isn't a real problem.

  42. Army1987 said,

    April 29, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

    I think it's at least partially because we unconsciously imitate the people we speak *to* (especially the ones we want to associate ourselves with).
    I think it significantly varies from person to person. I had a professor from Poland who, despite having been in Italy for sixteen years, had so bad an accent (as well as frequent significant grammar and word-choice errors) as to make him very hard to understand. And I can't imagine a reason why he could want to be hard to understand. That's quite the opposite end of the spectrum to John Cowan.
    (And I was told that that professor's wife, also from Poland, had become nearly perfectly fluent in Italian just two or three years after they had come here.)

  43. Lareina said,

    April 29, 2010 @ 7:00 pm

    I hope one day I wake up and acquire a Spanish accent. My 8th grade Spanish failed me because I was unable to make the 'R' in Spanish – in other words, I cannot even say my name right in Spanish. ugh. I think it's genetic….

  44. Cialan said,

    April 30, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

    Lareina,

    Try saying "pot of tea" in an American accent over and over, slowly. The "t" in "pot of" is roughly equivalent to the Spanish single "r." Then, after some practice, try to make that sound by itself, thinking of a "t" and not an "r." Then try to use it in words, again thinking of a "t" and not an "r."

    Good luck! :)

  45. Linda Green said,

    May 16, 2010 @ 9:29 pm

    For the past 24 years, after a slight stroke, I have had an accent which comes and goes. It sounds slightly French-Canadian. It comes every year or two and lasts several months. I work as a nurse and am otherwise healthy. I have had workups over the years, lately at Mass University Medical Center with no real answers. Is there any more information or diagnostic help out there?

  46. ellie said,

    May 17, 2010 @ 11:27 am

    i have been told that my 5 year old son has got the syndrome because he has a american accent and there doesnt seem to be a reason. i was just wondering if anyone knows anything about this syndrome because i dont know much about it.
    my son also has ADHD and ASD he also suffers from fits/convolsion could this be the reason he has this syndrome

  47. Nancy said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 12:47 am

    I was diagnosed with FAS after a stroke during a surgery in 2000. There is little understanding of this diagnosis. Those with FAS could stand in the UN and not be recognized by anyone there as a fellow countryman. We sound like but do not have the capabilities to speak a foreign language. There are issues in the order of words (sounds like translating from one language to another), articulation of syliables and difficulty in pronouncing combinations of vowels and/or consonant combinations. WIth a brain injury it might potentially make learning a new language difficult depending on where and to what degree the brain is damaged.
    I have been studying brain function and working with the Feldenkrais Method for the past 17 years. My recovery from the stroke has been nothing less than a miracle. I recently completed my MA from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. (Yahoo!!)
    I say "been there, doing that." It is a daily process of working out the details of life. I am truly grateful that my stroke left me with FAS, it could have been much worse.
    Nancy

  48. Cooper said,

    August 23, 2010 @ 11:03 pm

    Hrmm, the whole "fluent" thing. In the case of the German one, I wonder if it's something like Bob Franklin's job interview (around the 2:15 mark):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syqfCQgt8ns

  49. Sinead Hogan said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 4:53 pm

    Hello, from Canada. I have FAS. In withdrawal from a Benzodiazepine medication, it might have been partial epileptic attacks that triggered it, I don't know. Maybe someday someone will look at my brain. I speak fluent English, French and German. (Studied at a Lycee Francais + Fr at University & school in Germany in the summers, part of the family of German origin + mother from UK). For a few months, off/on, I had agrammatism(?), speaking like a telegram, with a German-type accent; I thought I sounded like Greta Garbo,lol. Then it settled into what now, 5 years later, still sounds Eastern European or German. I get asked all the time where I am from. I usually say it is my languages, since it has not affected my Fr & Ger accents. If people are not satisfied with this, I tell them it is FAS. People are rarely that curious. My "accent" shifts somewhat, depending on various states (excitment, stimulation, mood). I realize that there is a certain "unconscious" compensation, whereby you learn to use it to make it "plausible". Having watched other people with this on youtube, I can see that they incorporate various terms or even arm/hand motions. How we do this is mysterious, and probably comes from a lifetime of people watching/listening, tv, books, etc. It is up to the individual quirky imagination. I find it mostly hilarious, rather than distressing. I used to work at the federal government's central information/referral call-centre here, and there were so many international people working there (bilingualism in Canada), including many trilinguals (or more), that no one would really bat an eye. In my case it could also have come from previous injuries to the head, later triggered by a traumatic drug withdrawal. There are many issues surrounding the FAS and other damages from medication, given for a misdiagnosis. At the end of this year, I should have cleared some of this up, and then I will eventually email a few places to see if anybody is interested in studying my brain/speech. I have been reading German & French international news magazines the last 6 months, getting my fluency back in those languages, and it seems to be going faster and better than when I did this before the FAS. I worked in a French environment for about 4 months until a few months ago, which I hadn't done in 3 years, and that is going much better, too. A few weeks ago, I noticed that I was telling people how some friends say: "why you always dress in black?", dropping the "do". This happens occasionally, and it could be that the so-called "accent" (which we know isn't), makes it plausible to speak like a foreigner, but it could also be that there sometimes honestly feels like there is an effort involved in getting the words out, such as in my agrammaticism period, where it almost hurt to use only necessary words. I have found that the effort involved changes depending on the day and time, and so does the "accentuation" or "intensity" of the accent. From my reading, it is said that it is not "aphasia", but a type of "dysarthria". Personally, I don't have enough knowledge of these things to comment. Due to other minor (I think) damages, including developing "palilalia" after coming off the last drug last October (verbal repetition tic-in my case whispering, with lip movements, some facial expression), I am only getting better writing back in English recently, but this may not be related to the FAS. I can honestly say, however, that it is not "made up or pretend". Although I still have perfect French from France and Hochdeutsch accents, sounded slightly British in English, and did some acting when quite young, I was never good at imitating accents in English. What I find myself saddled with now is nothing, compared to so many horrible illnesses and neurological diseases and other dysfunctions that befall people. When life gives you lemons…. I sometimes think it has given me a new identity of sorts. If people think my mad, that is not a problem, I try to be the first to admit that I am an idiot anyway, unless something truly important is at stake. I'll be 47 tomorrow, and do handstand push-ups, back arched, every day. I have sciatica, had repeated bursitis of the hip, was walking with a cane 2 years ago and the leg went out from under me. I had the 7th operation for bowel strangulation with endometriosis last year, need to wear only hiking boots all the time-can't wear runners/walkers, I have had knee joint problems and have skin problems such that I cannot do martial arts or other gymnastic disciplines on naked feet; I blister. I also have the"constant sexual/or gential arousal syndrome" coming and going now, and likely simple partial epilepsy. I am on a mostly liquid diet and I do very simple physical jobs compared to what I used to do (writing/translating/responsible for portfolio of departments/supervising research for federal government information)but I am much happier, so who cares about an stupid speech defect of difficulty that sounds like an accent. Most of the time it is a source of great amusement to me, not to know what I will sound like until I get to the end of a sentence. FAS "enjoyer as opposed to sufferer" who says it is no big deal for me, really, compared to many other things I have experienced that I would term truly distressing. I have life!

  50. Lulu Andrews said,

    November 28, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

    FAS is an actual and verifiable condition! I know because I have it! I have nothing to gain by “faking” it. I am a sane and responsible individual who developed a change in speech due to a dose of medication. I developed horrible flu symptoms and spoke with an accent a few days later. I began with an “Island” accent,later French, Russian and others. At this time I'm speaking with a deep Southern accent-haven't been South for some time. I have yet to hear of a FAS “patient” who has developed a Southern accent. Yes, FAS is a rare and fascinating condition,but, it's truly amazing how folks find it so difficult to believe its existence.

  51. Gretchen said,

    May 5, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

    Thanks LULU Andrews nicely said. I have been dealing with FAS also.
    It can be trying at times.

  52. Juniel said,

    September 16, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

    It's true because I also experienced it. At age 10 , I was ill. I remember falling asleep with really high temperature. I had a dream that I was China. I woke up feeling really thirsty, asked for some water and realised that I had a British accent. I'm from St.Vincent. It lasted for about three weeks then it slowly faded. I don't know how to explain it but it actually happened.

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