Among the thousands of syndromes that have been studied to discover the causes and ways to treat, one of the most rare and somewhat curious is the foreign language syndrome.
Other Names For This Condition
- Pseudo-Accent Syndrome
- Foreign Accent Syndrome
- Local Accent Syndrome
Imagine that after a work accident, where a piece of concrete falls on your head and leaves you in a coma for several days, you wake up and just can’t speak your native language. His accent resembles that of a Frenchman who has just arrived in Brazil and is trying to learn Portuguese. It would be scary, wouldn’t it?
This happened to Bruno, 30 years old, Brazilian, in the beginning of 2016. The name of this rare condition is known as Foreign Language Syndrome.
What is Foreign Language Syndrome?
Foreign language syndrome is a rare medical disorder in which individuals who suffer from brain damage lose the ability to speak in their native accent and acquire a foreign accent, even if they have never traveled to that country.
Foreign language syndrome cases have been documented worldwide and include examples such as changing the accent of:
- British English to American English
- American English to French,
- Japanese to Korean
- Spanish to Italian
- Norwegian to German
- British English to Chinese
- Portuguese (Brazil) to French
Stroke is an important risk factor for the disorder and therefore, any condition that can result in stroke is a potential risk factor. In addition, stroke prevention can help prevent foreign language syndrome
The disorder can not only affect communication, due to changes in tone, tone and accent, it can also cause anxiety, identity crisis and social awkwardness .
There is no cure for foreign language syndrome, symptoms are managed through counseling and speech therapy.
Who Can Have Foreign Language Syndrome?
- Individuals of any age can be affected by Foreign Language Syndrome
- There is no gender preference; male and female, both are affected
- The condition is seen in those who recover from any brain disorder or injury
Risk Factors for Foreign Language Syndrome
Risk factors for foreign language syndrome include:
Stroke is an important risk factor, therefore:
- Any risk factor for strokes, such as high blood pressure, heart abnormalities, high cholesterol, increased body weight, smoking and alcoholism, can indirectly increase your risk of foreign language syndrome
It is important to note that having a risk factor does not mean that someone will have the condition. A risk factor increases the chances of getting a condition compared to an individual without the risk factors. Some risk factors are more important than others.
In addition, not having a risk factor does not mean that an individual does not get the condition. It is always important to discuss the effect of risk factors with your doctor.
Causes of Foreign Language Syndrome
Foreign language syndrome is often caused by brain damage or injury that changes an individual’s tone and speech. This disorder usually follows a severe brain injury.
When damage to the brain occurs, it affects the rhythm and intonation of speech. Brain damage can occur due to several factors, such as:
- Skull injury
- Cerebral or intracranial hemorrhage
- Multiple sclerosis (a neurological disorder)
When an individual articulates or speaks, certain parts of the muscles in the tongue, face and palate (bone and muscle division between the oral and nasal cavities) are used in a particular way.
In foreign language syndrome, when there is brain damage or lack of blood flow to certain parts of the brain, the part that controls language and speech is affected. Thus, when an individual tries to speak, the sound or language is produced in a different tone.
Speech can be altered in terms of pronunciation, tone, position or placement of the language, which can be perceived as a “foreign accent”.
Signs and Symptoms of Foreign Language Syndrome
The signs and symptoms of Foreign Language Syndrome are related to changes in the rhythm and tone of speech. These include:
- Longer, more distorted vowel sounds (‘yes’ can be pronounced ‘yah’)
- Moving the tongue or jaw differently when speaking
- Use inappropriate words to describe something
- Organize sentences inappropriately
- Excessive stress in some syllables, which are generally not needed
- Sometimes, knowledge of the native language can disappear completely
- Changes in the personality of a person corresponding to the nationality of the new accent
The individual can usually recover from the initial trauma and start speaking with a foreign accent, several weeks or months later.
Diagnosis of Foreign Language Syndrome
The first step is a thorough assessment, including:
- A complete medical and family history,
- Examination of oral structures and standardized tests of language and speech clarity
- Examination of muscles used in speech
- Tests to assess reading, writing and language comprehension
- Use of recordings to analyze speech patterns
- Psychological assessment to rule out any psychiatric condition
- Computed tomography: it is an image test that uses specialized x-rays to take pictures of the inside of the brain
- Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT): it is an image test that shows blood flow within the brain
- MRI scan: It is an image test that uses magnetic waves to take pictures of the inside of the brain
- Electroencephalogram (EEG): is a test that uses electrical current to record brain activity
In addition, the patient can be evaluated by a team of experts who may include the following:
- Speech language pathologist
Many clinical conditions can have similar signs and symptoms. The doctor may perform additional tests to rule out other medical conditions and arrive at a definitive diagnosis.
Possible Complications of Foreign Language Syndrome
Complications associated with external accent syndrome can include:
- Problems of identity crisis and self-confidence: since communication is a vital part of life, individuals with foreign language syndrome may feel frustrated when they can no longer recognize their own voice
- Social anxiety: individuals may experience anxiety problems as they feel different from others around them
- Individuals are often affected by the unexpected appearance of this disorder, which can cause enormous stress on them
- Foreign language syndrome can confuse people who are not family members of the affected individual, making them falsely conclude that they are people from a foreign country or region, which can result in isolation from the community around them
- Some individuals are unable to revert to their old speech patterns and, in some cases, even generate grammatical errors associated with their new accent
Treatment of Foreign Language Syndrome
Foreign language syndrome has no cure, as it is the result of brain damage or brain damage. However, the condition can be managed by:
- Vocal therapy: the disorder can be reversible with intensive speech therapy
- Counseling: since foreign language syndrome is a rare disease, the individual may feel isolated and ashamed. Counseling can help you, and your family, cope with the condition
- Assimilation: can be defined as moving the individual with a foreign accent to that foreign country, where they may not feel isolated, strange or even being chased by their strange accent
Individuals with foreign language syndrome can also be encouraged to adopt the foreign accent completely, so that they do not feel uncomfortable and awkward.
How to Avoid Foreign Language Syndrome?
Because stroke is the most common cause of foreign language syndrome, stroke prevention can help prevent the condition. A stroke can be prevented with:
- A healthy diet
- Avoid smoking, excessive alcohol and drug abuse
- Maintaining the ideal weight
- Control blood pressure through regular tests and medications
What is the Prognosis of Foreign Language Syndrome?
Foreign language syndrome is a disorder that may not be reversible. It can become a permanent part of life for most individuals. However, some individuals with the condition have regained their original accent
Additional and Relevant Useful Information for Foreign Language Syndrome
It was observed that some individuals with the Foreign Language Syndrome can influence young children in their lives with their accent. Which can cause the child to also start speaking with the same accent.
See also: West syndrome
My name is Dr. Alexis Hart I am 38 years old, I am the mother of 3 beautiful children! Different ages, different phases 16 years, 12 years and 7 years. In love with motherhood since always, I found it difficult to make my dreams come true, and also some more after I was already a mother.
Since I imagined myself as a mother, in my thoughts everything seemed to be much easier and simpler than it really was, I expected to get pregnant as soon as I wished, but it wasn’t that simple. The first pregnancy was smooth, but my daughter’s birth was very troubled. Joana was born in 2002 with a weight of 2930kg and 45cm, from a very peaceful cesarean delivery but she had already been born with congenital pneumonia due to a broken bag not treated with antibiotics even before delivery.