Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • When I was a kid, I looooved doing impressions - I got a kick out of changing my accent and

  • prank calling my friends. But, some people claim to be stuck with a foreign accent. Is

  • that a thing?

  • Hello communicators, Lissette here for DNews. A mother of two who lives in the UK seems

  • to confuse a lot of people. If you saw her in a supermarket, you’d probably guess she

  • was a local, that is, until you hear her speak. Some people think she’s French, others German,

  • Italian, and yet others even Japanese! She just doesn’t sound British. People can’t

  • seem to agree on what accent she has, but they are certain she is speaking in an foreign accent.

  • The thing is, she’s never lived anywhere but the UK, so what’s going on here? Is

  • she faking it?

  • Well, she told a Professor at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, “I’m not

  • trying to be foreign. I’m just trying to be me.” Turns out, she’s telling the truth.

  • In March 2006 she began involuntarily slurring her words and in the matter of days, her voice

  • had completely changed. Doctors were baffled. But, after numerous tests and observations,

  • she found out that she is one of the more than 140 reported cases of people suffering

  • from a condition called Foreign Accent Syndrome or FAS.

  • Foreign accent syndrome is a motor speech disorder in which a person’s intonation

  • and stress patterns are altered. The way they compose phrases and sentences is also affected.

  • This causes them to be perceived as non-native speakers of their mother tongue. In the UK

  • woman’s specific case, her funny accent was a result of cerebral vasculitis - basically

  • this means that her brain was not receiving enough oxygen in areas responsible for language.

  • But, other types of brain injuries can cause people to have Foreign Accent Syndrome too.

  • Another British woman woke up with a Chinese sounding accent after having a severe migraine.

  • Yet others, have sounded differently since birth. A Dutch boy can’t help but speak

  • in what sounds like a French or Mediterranean accent. Before him, all known cases of Foreign

  • Accent Syndrome were associated with brain damage, so his case tells scientists there

  • may also be a genetic component involved. This is why Dr. Johan Verhoeven from City

  • University London and his team decided to investigate what was going on. By using single

  • emission CT scans, they found that his brain had significantly less blood flow to certain

  • areas compared to other people. They saw reduced flow to the prefrontal cortex in the left

  • hemisphere, which makes sense because this area is associated with speech. But, they

  • also found that he had less blood flow to the right side of his cerebellum. This area

  • is usually not associated with speech - it’s thought to be more strongly linked to body

  • movement. So this finding tells researchers that perhaps the cerebellum is also involved

  • with cognitive functions - like producing speech.

  • People who develop these so called accents are obviously not faking it. It’s a real

  • thing. That being said, calling their condition Foreign Accent Syndrome is a bit of misnomer

  • that may contribute to some people’s skepticism. Nonetheless, for people with FAS, speaking

  • this way is not a matter of choice. It’s just what it is - like a speech impediment.

  • One speech impediment that is a bit controversial is the lisp. Check out my episode on why some

  • people have lisps here.

  • Do you have a favorite accent? Share your thoughts in the comments and remember

  • to subscribe so you never miss an episode of DNews. Thanks for watching.

When I was a kid, I looooved doing impressions - I got a kick out of changing my accent and

Subtitles and vocabulary

Click the word to look it up Click the word to find further inforamtion about it