Imagine waking up one day and speaking with a foreign accent, unintentionally. That is what seems to be happening to victims of foreign accent syndrome (FAS).
I first heard about FAS when I was watching the BBC news. There was a story about a woman from England who started speaking with what sounds like a French accent, and another English woman who started speaking with what sounds like a Chinese accent.
According to the Wikipedia entry,”Foreign accent syndrome is a rare medical condition involving speech production that usually occurs as a side effect of severe brain injury, such as a stroke or head trauma.”
Furthermore, “Its symptoms result from distorted articulatory planning and coordination processes. It must be emphasized that the speaker does not suddenly gain a foreign language (vocabulary, syntax, grammar, etc); they merely pronounce their native language with an accent that to listeners may be mistaken as foreign or dialectical.”
So it doesn’t sound as if the person with FAS is purposefully speaking with a foreign accent; it just sounds like it to the listener.
The Language Log has an entry with some doubts regarding FAS. You can read it here.
From what I could gather when I listened to both English women speaking, it didn’t seem as if either were suffering from any type of aphasia.
I have included a video interview of the English woman who started speaking with what sounds like a Chinese accent. FAS affected her after she suffered some brain damage from acute migraine headaches.