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Foreign Accent Syndrome: A Guest Blog by Debbie Waldman

Welcome to First Thursday! On the first Thursday of each month, Corporate Speech Solutions features a guest blogger to give a fresh perspective on different topics in communication. Today, we’re joined by our very own Debbie Waldman. As a student in speech-language pathology, Debbie has been an intern for over a year. She has been responsible for a lot of the research and leg work that goes into helping Corporate Speech Solutions keep providing you with ways to Say It Better! Debbie graduated from Queens College with a Bachelors in Communication Sciences and Disorders and is going to Brooklyn College to pursue a Masters in Speech-Language Pathology this fall.

Today, Debbie writes about an extremely rare speech issue called foreign accent syndrome. Having seen a segment on both Good Morning America and CNN recently in the news, we asked Debbie to do a bit of research on this topic. Can you imagine one day waking up to find that you speak with a completely new accent from a place you’ve never been? Read on to learn more about this fascinating disorder!

Foreign Accent Syndrome

by Debbie Waldman

For many people, having a foreign or regional accent is an important part of their identity. But what if that accent wasn’t your own? This is the case for people who have been diagnosed with foreign accent syndrome (FAS)

People with foreign accent syndrome experience a sudden change in their speech which others perceive as sounding like a foreign accent. FAS is an extremely rare disorder with only 100 cases having been reported worldwide, however the range of accent changes reported has been fairly broad, including changes from Japanese to Korean, British English to French, American-English to British English, and Spanish to Hungarian. Although the person’s speech has changed drastically, speech remains intelligible and may not necessarily sound disordered. Changes in speech can include:

  • Changes in tone
  • Unusual prosody
  • Distorted sentence construction
  • Voicing errors
  • Use of uncommonly used words
  • Consonant/vowel distortions, substitutions etc.
  • Changes in one’s tongue and jaw placement during speech

Although this condition may seem mysterious, it is actually just a variation on a much more common problem: speech changes following neurological damage. When a person has a stroke or other brain injury, their speech and language are often affected. Usually this involves distortions that make speech less intelligible, but the types of sounds that are impacted are unpredictable and vary from person to person. Foreign accent syndrome occurs when a person’s speech sounds are impacted in a very specific way that just happens to mimic the accent of a specific non-native speaking group.

In diagnosing foreign accent syndrome a complete medical history is necessary to help formulate a proper diagnosis. In many cases, a psychological evaluation is done to rule out any psychiatric conditions. A diagnosis of FAS can be reached after assessing various things, such as language skills and brain activity. Imaging tests, such as MRI and CT scan, are also used to assist in diagnosing this rare condition.


As far as treatment goes, a speech-language pathologist can provide therapy to help the patient regain his/her former manner of speaking. This may include learning how to better move one’s lips and jaw during speech. Counseling can also be beneficial for a person diagnosed with FAS. It is meant to provide emotional support and strategies for coping with the condition.

Would you or a colleague benefit from communication training or accent reduction services? Give us a call and see how Corporate Speech Solutions can improve your professional life! Call us at 212-308-7725 or send us an e-mail at info@corporatespeechsolutions.com to learn more. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you might have!

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