A car crash, dental surgery, a migraine, hit by shrapnel, a seizure – all these incidents led to the same condition in different people and that condition is Foreign Accent Syndrome, (FAS.)
Of the approximately 60 to 70 recorded cases of FAS, patients include one Australian woman who began speaking with a French accent after a car crash; a British woman who began speaking with a Chinese accent after a serious migraine; and an American woman who began speaking in a mix of Irish, English and other European accents after dental surgery. The very first recorded case occurred in 1941 after a young Norwegian woman suffered a shrapnel injury to the brain during an air raid – she began speaking with a German accent afterward and was ostracized as a result by people who thought she was faking the accent.
A common misconception among people meeting someone with FAS is that the FAS patient is able to speak a second language. Most FAS patients are actually monolingual and none of them acquire the ability to speak the language from which their accent derives. (There is one case, which is probably not considered FAS, of a Croatian girl who fell into a coma and woke up having lost the ability to speak Croatian but being able to speak fluent German.) [source]
I found it interesting as I researched that most of the cases I encountered were of Anglo women, but then I discovered the case of a man in England who began to speak with an Italian or Greek accent and an Australian boy who spoke with an American accent. Still, the vast majority of people with FAS seem to be women and I’m unable to find information of this occurring in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Whether this means it hasn’t occurred there or simply that the cases weren’t recorded as FAS, remains to be seen. (I can imagine that some cases could have been disregarded as mental illness.)
For some people this condition is a source of depression, frustration and embarrassment. Some people feel like they’ve lost a part of their identity – other people embrace it as a new identity.
How do you think you’d react to one day waking up with Foreign Accent Syndrome? Is there an accent you wouldn’t mind having? Which accent would you not want to have? How do you think it would affect your daily life?
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