How would you feel if you woke up one day and spoke your native language with a foreign accent? If you found yourself in this situation, it would be due to what scientists generally refer to as foreign language accent syndrome (FAS) or pseudo foreign language accent syndrome.
We are talking about a phenomenon that the French neurologist Pierre Marie described in 1907. He spoke of a case of a Parisian who began to speak with an Alsatian accent after suffering a stroke.
The foreign accent syndrome is a rare neurological speech disorder that has been documented in about twenty specific studies. A person’s speech takes on a sound that seems strange to local listeners.
This is a consequence of brain injury, mainly at the subcortical level. Due to its abrupt occurrence, this disorder can lead to a feeling of loss of identity as the affected patient cannot avoid speaking with a strange accent.
Symptoms either last for months or years, or go away spontaneously or gradually. In a smaller number of cases, they manifest themselves briefly in patients with psychiatric disorders, schizophrenia, and conversion disorder. In addition, many people do not notice that their accent has changed and are therefore surprised when someone points this out.
Symptoms of Foreign Language Accent Syndrome
Clinically, this syndrome is characterized by deficits:
- At the segmental level. Vowels change more than consonants. In addition, the change in pronunciation time of vowels is shorter in some patients and longer in others. Finally, there are also changes and pronunciation errors in the consonants.
- On the prosodic level. This has to do with rhythm and word stress. The researchers found that there was a decrease in timing between syllables, insertion of vowels, and poor transition between words.
The main difficulties are:
- Changes to grammatical, articular and prosodic elements without difficulty in understanding and expressing the language. Even without phonetic deformations.
- The lack of verbal language skills manifests itself in the same way as in aphasia and apraxia. However, unlike these speech impairments, a person’s verbal output does not appear to be pathological; it just looks strange.
There is no evidence of functional changes in a person’s daily routine. However, the often emotional effects of this disorder lead to the manifestation of adverse psychosocial consequences in the life of the person concerned. In fact, they even describe many studies.
Foreign language accent syndrome: causes
Foreign language accent syndrome is a sudden disorder that changes the correct pattern of a native language. This is done so that the person affected, their family members, and their therapist all perceive an accent.
Major causes include cerebrovascular accidents and craniocerebral trauma, which affect areas related to language production and expression, among other conditions such as multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, and anesthesia .
Foreign language accent syndrome can last for months or years, or go away spontaneously or gradually. However, there are also stories about people who needed speech and cognitive therapy. This is because this syndrome can have a significant psychological impact on those affected over time without them regaining their true voice. Sometimes they may not even remember it.
The usual treatments in these cases are therapies and speech techniques that allow those affected to restore part or all of their previous pronunciation. In addition, speech therapists use accentuation reduction techniques and teach people to move their lips or jaws in specific ways.
In 2010, scientists from the University of Malaga combined these rehabilitation exercises with donepezil, a drug commonly used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
This double treatment resulted in excellent recovery symptoms in a patient affected by the disease. Other techniques may include masked auditory feedback, delayed auditory feedback, and frequency change auditory feedback.