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Foreign Accent Syndrome: symptoms, causes and treatment

Foreign Accent Syndrome: symptoms, causes and treatment

June 16, 2022

The Foreign Accent Syndrome is an uncommon and little investigated clinical picture, but it raises one of the great enigmas of neuroscience in relation to language. Broadly speaking, it is a condition in which a person suddenly acquires an accent different from the native one without apparent explanation.

In this article we explain what is the Foreign Accent Syndrome , what are its main characteristics and what science has found so far.

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What is the Foreign Accent Syndrome?

The Foreign Accent Syndrome is characterized by the sudden presence of an accent different from that of the mother tongue, while the speech proceeds in a normal way. It was first described in 1907 by the neurologist Pierre Marie, however there have been few cases investigated.

It usually occurs after strokes and occurs apparently suddenly. The person begins to speak in their mother tongue with full intelligibility, but with a seemingly foreign accent that can not be avoided and that the same person does not recognize as his own .


The accent is recognized by other people as distinct from the mother tongue, although it is not necessarily identified as that of a particular language. In other words, the accent is heard and interpreted by others as a foreigner, because significant changes are identified in the pronunciation of some syllables, consonants and vowels which are considered key to the mother tongue, but not necessarily corresponds completely with another accent.

The people who listen can recognize that the speaker uses their native language (for example, the Spanish language), but with an accent that can be French, English, German, or any other, which varies according to the opinions of the listeners. That is to say that, generally there is no agreement on what is the perceived accent, for this reason it is also called Pseudoextranjero Accent Syndrome.

This syndrome has been related to a neuromotor disturbance, whereby it is also defined as an acquired alteration of the bean , in which the central nervous system plays a very important role. It may be accompanied by manifestations related to language and communication disorders such as aphasias and dysarthria, although not necessarily.

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Representative clinical cases

González-Álvarez, J., Parcet-Ibars, M.A., Avila, C. et al. (2003) have conducted a review of the scientific literature on the Foreign Accent Syndrome, and they tell us that the first documented case was in the year 1917. It was a Parisian who developed an "Alsatian" accent after receiving a war wound that had caused a right hemiparesis.

Thirty years later, another of the best-known cases of Foreign Accent Syndrome was published, where a 30-year-old Norwegian woman suffers a frontotemporoparietal injury after being the victim of a Nazi bombing, and as a result, her accent begins to be recognized by the listeners as a German.

Because of the highly conflictive context in which he found himself, the German accent caused him different problems to do the things of everyday life, since he was identified as being German.

In the scientific literature have also been described cases of Foreign Accent Syndrome without having had the previous experience of coexisting with a second language . Almost always they are monolingual people.

Associated medical conditions and possible causes

Most of the cases that have been investigated describe the onset of the syndrome after having been diagnosed with Broca's aphasia, transcortical motor aphasia, lesions in the subcortical white matter in specific convolutions.

In addition to the motor language areas, other brain areas that have been related to the Foreign Accent Syndrome have been the precentral gyrus, the lower central gyrus, the corpus callosum and the insular cortex. Likewise, the relationship with Rolando's fissure and temporal areas has been investigated.

More generally, the medical causes related to the Foreign Accent Syndrome are mainly cerebrovascular accidents in the left hemisphere , in relation to the areas that participate in the automation of complex motor behaviors (such as speech, which requires very important neuromuscular coordination).

Currently this syndrome is investigated in relation to the neural areas that regulate the joint, the acquisition of native speech and a second language, however there is no agreement on the methodological options that would be decisive to find a definitive explanation on this syndrome.

For this same reason, there is not enough information about the prognoses and treatments, although some auditory and sensory feedback techniques have been tested that seek to modify verbal fluency, as well as auditory masking techniques with noise that have been found satisfactory when dealing with, for example, stuttering, since people tend to improve their verbal fluency when they stop listening to their own voice.

Bibliographic references:

  • González-Álvarez, J., Parcet-Ibars, M.A., Avila, C. et al. (2003). A rare alteration of speech of neurological origin: the foreign accent syndrome. Neurology Magazine, 36 (3): 227-234.
  • Srinivas, H. (2011) Transient foreign accent syndrome. Journal List, doi: 10.1136 / bcr.07.2011.4466. Retrieved June 8, 2018. Available at //

FOREIGN ACCENT SYNDROME, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment. (June 2022).

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