September 20th, 2010
03:55 PM ET

When brain damage makes you sound foreign

You may have dabbled with a foreign accent just for fun, or for a performance of some kind. But in very rare cases, a person's voice takes on a dramatically different sound without his or her permission, and the original accent may be totally lost.

The phenomenon is called Foreign Accent Syndrome, and it's gotten a lot of attention recently.

There are only believed to be about 60 people in the world with foreign accent syndrome. It happens when brain injuries such as stroke lead a patient's speech pattern to change.

One woman with the condition is Kay Russell from Bishops Cleeve, England. The BBC reported that in January, Kay Russell woke up with a French-sounding accent after a severe migraine.

She has mixed emotions when she sees a video of herself speaking with her old British accent; it reminds her of her old self.

"It's not my voice I miss. I would love to have my old voice back, but it goes way, way, way beyond my voice," she told the BBC. "It's the person I want to be."

Another British woman with the condition also seeks to recover her former self. Kath Lockett has been trying to get her original voice back for four years, the BBC reported. A brain disease called severe cerebral vasculitis had left her unable to speak; after treatment, her accent became eastern European.

"It makes you realize you don't know where you're from anymore because you feel like you've lost your identity," Lockett told the BBC.

CNN also reported on the phenomenon in April - check out this video.

soundoff (328 Responses)
  1. Julie K Frazier

    I too have Foreign Accent Syndrome and believe me it is nothing you would want to 'fake' as it is a very distressing condition. Imagine, if you will, not being able to communicate with your family or friends, being abused in public for being 'foreign' or even calling your own cell phone and not even recognizing the voice on the vmail. My FAS developed over 2.5 years ago after a series of severe Sporadic Hemiplegic Migraines that were occurring multiple times per day for a period of over two months. Just for info, Hemiplegic Migraines (either familial or the sporadic version) are similar to a stroke symptomatically. Due to the chemical messages being processed incorrectly and passing through the nerve channels in an erratic manner a person with Hemiplegic Migraines may have severe confusion, coordination difficulties, problems walking, slurred speech or even be unable to speak and paralysis of part of the body. For almost a year after my speech 'changed' I had to carry a pencil and paper with me as even my closest family members frequently could not understand what I was trying to say. After almost 5 months of speech therapy twice per week I finally was able to communicate without having to email across the room to the people that I love. Even now there are times when they still have trouble understanding what I have to say or have to ask me to repeat what I have said multiple times, especially during the period before and after a SHM.

    Speech and language are a very large part of ones personality and when it is changed or lost you do grieve. It is a traumatic situation that also includes suffering from the condition that brought about the change in the first place. Others like me who have faced FAS due to hemiplegic migraines or other recurring chronic condition relive the fear and distress that another shift in the speech patterns could occur at any time or worse that we may loos our ability to speak altogether. As way of adapting some of us have picked up on phrases and lingo of the country whose accent we most sound like to make it easier to 'fit in' to a society that lives on ignorance as opposed to being educated. Each and every one of us who have faced the challenges of living with FAS have people daily ask us where we are from and let's face it, no one really wants to admit that they have a brain injury or condition that makes it so they cannot even speak correctly.

    Over the course of the last year I have broken through many fears, mainly how people react to me in public. Instead of hiding behind what to me sounds like bad grammar and slurred speech, what others call an 'accent', I have started talking to everyone that asks about both Foreign Accent Syndrome and Sporadic Hemiplegic Migraines in an effort to begin the long road of educating both the general public and hopefully, eventually, the medical community so that others like myself do not have the fears and challenges that I have had. This is one of those conditions that a person will never be able to understand how difficult it is to live with unless they are forced to 'walk in my shoes', so to speak.

    November 23, 2010 at 19:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Ellen Spencer (Ellen5e)

    It IS real and not easy to live with. You don't think your speech is a big part of who you are as a person? What would happen if your best friend called you on the phone and you answered "hello?" only to have them say "Oh, I am sorry, I have the wrong number" and hang up on you?!

    Although there are many psychosematic conditions that cause problems in a persons body, for those people diagnosed with Foreign Accent Syndrome, you can be sure that psychological factors are considered before diagnosis is made. As far as "faking" an accent. Not even the best actor can hold onto a dialect through such a long time without slipping up. Consistently sounding like someone else who is considered a "foreigner" definitely causes people to treat you differently. They think you are incapable or people you've known for years may think "you look just like . . ." while not realizing they are actually talking to us.

    How do we explain this strange phenomena? It's extremely difficult. It involves the brain and as an earlier comment spoke of, there is so much we don't yet understand about the brain. Many professional neurologists have not had a case of FAS because it is so rare and so they are not encouraged to conduct studies and seek further knowledge. That lack of research only feeds general ignorance as to what is happening in FAS patients lives. By making the childish comments of "it's fake," "there is no such thing," etc. unthinking people are not only advertising their ignorance, but shedding judgmental condemnation on a person they don't even know who is already suffering from the ordeal of going through a medical condition which profoundly affects their daily life.

    I can understand where a person may wish to sound differently for a bit by putting on a dialect for a play for example. However, if you were speaking in a foreign accent and unable to 'turn it off,' do you not see how hurtful that might be?

    I and a group of others are trying to bring more awareness to both the general public and the medical community about this Foreign Accent Syndrome. I welcome you to visit http://ellen5e.com to walk in my shoes as I blogged about my journey with this rare condition from onset until now. Just put FAS in the search box and you will find numerous postings, including some where my "real" voice (what we call our before FAS voices) is recorded and then listen to my "new" voice. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that there is something profound going on in the Brocha (speech area) of the brain.

    I welcome your comments, as I just want to get understanding to rule over ignorance, and compassion over silliness.

    November 24, 2010 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hannes

      Dear Ellen,
      I just listened to a podcast where you tell your story so vividly and I was fascinated. Never heard of this before. Thank you for sharing it in such an interesting way. If you are still searching for a possible cause of such a situation, may I recommend you read a book by L. Ron Hubbard, called DIANETICS: The Modern Science of Mental Health. I read it many moons ago and I found it highly interesting and when I listed to your story, I thought about this book and I thought that it may be interesting for you as well as it just may shed some light on how this could happen (and what could be done about it).
      Best, Hannes

      June 8, 2016 at 23:11 | Report abuse |
  3. eileen wenig

    Perhaps if we could develop a drug that changes the accent, it could be given to all foreigners in the US and then we would understand them when they try to speak English.

    November 27, 2010 at 01:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. eeg of brain

    I like the helpful information you provide in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. I am quite sure I will learn plenty of new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next! Thanks for sharing…….
    eeg of brain

    May 4, 2011 at 05:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Abbott

    I am pleased I came across your website on msn. Thanks for the sensible critique. Me and my wife ended up being just preparing to do some research about it. I am thrilled to see these fantastic details getting shared freely out there.

    February 5, 2012 at 09:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. quality roofing Auckland

    Awesome things here. I'm very happy to see your article. Thanks a lot and I am having a look forward to touch you. Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

    July 24, 2012 at 22:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. cowjumpedoverthemoon

    Call me for a good time. I love to play the skin flute. 240-463-0204

    August 20, 2012 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Shygirl

    I had a brain Tumor and after Surgery, I woke up with a foreign accent, No one knows about it but my family, How do i report it, or have a study done on my accent, I hate going out in publc I am always asked Where are you from?
    I would like to know who will do a study on my accent, and how do I report it.

    February 26, 2013 at 21:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ellen5e

      Dear Shygirl... did you ever get connected with someone about your foreign accent syndrome? Are you still having it. Happy to connect with you as I have had it since 2009 and know of others for support. Stay strong!

      June 13, 2015 at 23:59 | Report abuse |
  9. ellen5e

    You can also go to website Ellen5e(dott)com and I have written blogs, shared audio and video links to ==, articles, and more. It was not strictly Foreign Accent Syndrome related blog so just use the search box to find information and/or the similar posts links at the end of a blog post. There is also a way to contact me on there.

    June 14, 2015 at 00:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Carl

    So only people can the FAS if they get a head injury? What about those that are born with it? All my life being cursed with this irish-american accent despite I'm a 7th born generation aussie! I'm sick and tired of asking me where you from, this happen whenever I start a conversation now I rarely socialize with anyone at all because they think I don't sound aussie enough.

    November 17, 2015 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. FnrdEncox

    viagra natural para hombres can i buy viagra online viagra

    November 26, 2020 at 00:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. FdbvZisse

    viagra in india cost sildenafil prescription prices viagra online pharmacy usa

    November 26, 2020 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. FnrhEncox

    viagrarx viagra online ireland cheap generic viagra online

    November 27, 2020 at 02:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. JsweCrulk

    generic viagra 100mg pills buy generic viagra online in india compare viagra

    November 27, 2020 at 03:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. KwgdMile

    college essay guide essay on roblox help me with my assignment

    November 28, 2020 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. FsfEncox

    help with writing essays english literature dissertation geometry homework help

    November 29, 2020 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. FtghEncox

    essays website custom dissertations proposal for a research paper

    December 1, 2020 at 05:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. click here for more info electrical contractor

    I appreciate, cause I found exactly what I was looking for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye


    December 2, 2020 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. FnsbEncox

    technical essay writing online dissertation the purpose for which you are writing an essay

    December 2, 2020 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. JgscCrulk

    get assignments done online history dissertation writing a synopsis for a research paper

    December 2, 2020 at 15:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. DvscZisse

    writing essay for college application essay writing learning objectives writing good essay

    December 2, 2020 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. FqfEncox

    pay someone to do your math homework help 123 free essays essay writing for scholarship

    December 3, 2020 at 04:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. check this 24 hr electrician

    Superb site you have here but I was curious if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics talked about here? I'd really like to be a part of group where I can get responses from other experienced individuals that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Bless you!


    December 4, 2020 at 07:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. KhedMile

    price of viagra in nz buy viagra on line viagra how to buy without prescription

    December 10, 2020 at 08:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. FsfgEncox

    where to buy viagra online viagra professional geneic viagra

    December 10, 2020 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. FgnsZisse

    buy generic cialiss canada cialis •cialis

    December 11, 2020 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. FbsbEncox

    cialis us pharmacy looking for cialis 60mg generic cialis au

    December 11, 2020 at 18:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. DvncZisse

    health plus cialis cialis super active real online store generic cialis

    December 12, 2020 at 07:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. FgrsEncox

    viagra viagra singapore buy what is generic viagra

    December 12, 2020 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. FqbfEncox

    generic cialis canada cialis and dapoxetine tabs in usa buy cialis 36 hour online

    December 13, 2020 at 10:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. JgsvCrulk

    viagradiscount viagra, dapoxetine viagra sources

    December 14, 2020 at 04:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. FhsnZisse

    best online for generic viagra viagra onlines pills like viagra

    December 16, 2020 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. DvnjZisse

    viagra online order mastercard accepted viagra australia prescription buy 100 ml viagra

    December 17, 2020 at 07:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Tayna Hellinger

    I am unable to read articles online very often, but I’m glad I did today. This is very well written and your points are well-expressed. Please, don’t ever stop writing.


    December 20, 2020 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Ericka

    Hi there all, here every person is sharing these know-how, thus
    it's pleasant to read this blog, and I used to pay a quick visit this webpage every day.

    Visit my web site: car insurance ontario bmo

    December 26, 2020 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Bradly

    I really ⅼike үоur blog.. very nice colors &
    theme. ƊiԀ yoᥙ design tһіѕ website ʏourself оr ԁіd yоu hire sօmeone to dο it
    foг you? Plz ansѡer bacck as I'm ⅼooking to construct
    mʏ own blog and wouⅼd like to know where u got this from.
    thank you

    My web page ... cause of hair loss in women

    December 29, 2020 at 20:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. NllpZisse

    best drugstore eyeshadow drugstore cowboy canadian pharmacy cialis

    January 10, 2021 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. AqwsEncox

    pharmacy rx one reviews best drugstore eye cream best drugstore foundation

    January 10, 2021 at 21:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. JtmfEncox

    canada rx pharmacy drugs from canada professional pharmacy

    January 10, 2021 at 23:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. FgvdZisse

    ed pills online ed meds online best drugstore blush

    January 11, 2021 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. FwsxEncox

    the people's pharmacy online drugstore pharmacy mexican pharmacy

    January 11, 2021 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. KhthMile

    ed meds online without doctor prescription best drugstore foundation for dry skin online pharmacy no prescription

    January 12, 2021 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. LokuEncox

    pharmacy online drugstore online canadian pharmacy cheap rx

    January 13, 2021 at 10:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. NlbxZisse

    viagra singapore online toronto viagra viagra cheap viagra • cialis • where can i buy generic viagra online genericviagra viagra alcohol use chesp viagra generic viagra review forum buy viagra that takes paypal brand viagra 50 mg london drugs viagra viagra coupons and discounts viagra and depoxtamine best place to buy viagra paypal

    January 14, 2021 at 23:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. FgnhZisse

    buy generic viagra usa is viagra from canada safe? viagra worldwide viagra trial packs without prescription free trail viagra precription strength viagra canadian generic viagra viagra to buy online viagra on line viagra on ine viagra chea viagra online .au craigslist and viagra viagra super power easy avilibility of viagra

    January 15, 2021 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Melony Soren


    January 15, 2021 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. KlioMile

    cheap viagra in the usa sample viagra package viagra online at boots generic viagra online canadian pharmacy viagra for every day use denver viagra viagra before and after pics viagra alternative australia free samples viagra genaric generic viagra cheap viagra online pay by paypal cipla viagra hong kong i want to buy viagra from australia viagra tablets what if viagra doesnt work another tablet

    January 17, 2021 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. JvcxCrulk

    how much does viagra cost with insurance reasons to use viagra viagra buy australia no delivery bolton viagra get free viagra viagra online stores online viagra viagra with dapoxetine without a prescription london drugs viagra free trial viagra canada discount viagra free shipping on all order viagra online sales in australia viagra in knoxville tn viagra online next day delivery viamedic viagra

    January 18, 2021 at 08:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Cortez Beaudoin

    Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article.I’ll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post.I will definitely return.


    January 18, 2021 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. NlbxZisse

    cialis generic cialis price per pill cialis dosage recommend http://cialijomen.com/ – cialis on ebay ’

    January 19, 2021 at 23:35 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6

Leave a Reply to LrbsEncox


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.