The Curious Condition of Foreign Accent Syndrome

Apr, 2023


What do you think foreign accent syndrome is and what might cause it?

Vocabulary list 

• Students read each word followed by the definition, focusing on the correct pronunciation.

• The teacher reads the sample sentence and the students repeat, focusing on the correct pronunciation.

• After reading the list, students try to make their own example sentences using the words that are new to them. 

• Students share their example sentences and the teacher gives feedback, correcting errors if necessary.

syndrome (noun)


a mental or behavioural condition that develops as a result of an illness or situation

Many new syndromes related to social media create anxiety and depression.  


disorder (noun)


an illness of the mind or body

Mental health disorders can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.


neurologist (noun)


a doctor who studies and treats diseases of the nerves, often related to the brain

The neurologist told us that, in time, you will make a full recovery.


trauma (noun)


physical damage, or emotional damage caused by a very upsetting experience

Many of your fears and anxieties are related to unresolved traumas from the past.


resulting (adjective)


caused by the related situation or event that has been mentioned

The resulting cost of war goes far beyond the horrific death and destruction.


mean (adjective)


an average number of something

According to data, the mean salary in Ireland in 2022 was around €3000 per month.


shrapnel (adjective)


small pieces of metal blown through the air when a bomb or other device explodes

My uncle was hit by a piece of shrapnel when he was a soldier in Afghanistan.

The Curious Condition of Foreign Accent Syndrome

Imagine one day you woke up and started speaking in a foreign accent for no reason. For example, you suddenly found that your British accent sounded American, or your Spanish accent sounded a little bit Hungarian, or perhaps your Japanese now sounded like it was being spoken by a Korean. This strange condition is known as foreign accent syndrome.

Foreign accent syndrome (FAS) is a rare speech disorder that was first described in 1907 by a French neurologist named Pierre Marie. Since then, there have been just over 100 cases reported around the world. FAS does not give sufferers the ability to speak a foreign language – their native language remains the same – and it is not the same as developing the accent of the people in a country that you have lived in for some time. What makes FAS so strange is that it happens quite suddenly and sufferers can acquire an accent of a country they have never been to, even if they have never even met a person from that country! So what is the cause of foreign accent syndrome?

It is thought that people with FAS experience changes in their nervous system due to neurological damage caused by surgery, head trauma or mental health conditions. The resulting changes in speech tend to remain consistent as opposed to the sufferer switching from one accent to another. A 2019 report on 49 people with FAS found that most reported having a foreign accent for 2 months to 18 years, with a mean length of 3 years.

Foreign accent syndrome is different to when a person spends a lot of time around people with a foreign accent and gradually start to develop that accent. FAS happens quite suddenly and the sufferer can sound like they are speaking their native language as a second or even third language.

One of the earliest recorded cases of FAS involved a Norwegian woman who was hit by shrapnel during World War II and began speaking with a German accent. A case recorded in 2016 details the story of a 34-year-old African American woman that was diagnosed with schizophrenia who began speaking with a British accent despite never having been to Britain. And in a 2018 case report, a 65-year-old Spanish-speaking woman with multiple sclerosis (MS) began speaking in Spanish with an English accent.

A 2019 study that looked at 112 FAS cases found that the majority were adult, right-handed women who were native English speakers. The most common contributing conditions were severe headaches, stroke, surgery in the face or mouth, and severe head trauma.


Rare syndrome makes Texas mom speak with foreign accent
YouTube link:



1. When someone suffers from Foreign Accent Syndrome…

a. they suddenly forget how to speak their native language.
b. they start speaking with an accent from another language.
c. they develop the same accent of the people around them.

According to the article, people with FAS have usually spent time in the country of which their new accent comes from.


If you were to have a severe injury to your head in an accident, this could cause FAS.


The 2019 report found that most people with FAS have their accent for 3 years.


What caused the African American woman to develop FAS?

a. She was hit by shrapnel during the war.
b. She spent a long time living in Britain.
c. She was suffering from a mental illness.

Most people get FAS as a result of head injuries.



  • What are your thoughts on this article? Have you heard of FAS before?
  • Do you know anyone who speaks with a foreign accent? If so, what is it and how did they develop this accent?
  • If you lived in a foreign country, how long do you think it would take to start speaking with their accent?
  • Why do you think some people pick up accents and others don’t?
  • Do you think having a foreign accent can be a disadvantage? Why?
  • Are there any kinds of accent that you think can be an advantage?
  • Do you think having a certain accent in your own language is a disadvantage? If so, why?
  • What is your favourite sounding accent and why?  
  • What is the least favourite dialect from your own country and why?
  • From what region in your country do you think that people speak the best or the purest form of your language?