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Lahey Health is now part of Beth Israel Lahey Health

by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(FAS)

Definition

Foreign accent syndrome (FAS) is a rare speech disorder. A person with it sounds as if they are speaking with an accent from another country.

Stroke—Common Cause of Foreign Accent Syndrome
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Causes

FAS is caused by damage to the part of the brain that controls the rhythm and melody of speech. The damage may be due to:

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of FAS are:

  • High risk for stroke
  • Aphasia—problems understanding and expressing language
  • Speech apraxia—problems making sounds, syllables, and words

Symptoms

Problems may last months, years, or may be permanent. People with FAS speak in a distorted rhythm and tone, such as:

  • Making vowel sounds that are longer and lower, such as changing English “yeah” to German “jah”
  • Changing sound quality by moving the tongue or jaw differently while speaking
  • Substituting words or using the wrong words to describe something
  • Putting sentences together the wrong way

A person with FAS may be able to speak easily and have others understand them. The accent may also be within the same language, such as American-English to British-English.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the muscles used to speak. A mental health exam may also be done to rule out other causes.

Language skills will be tested. This can be done with:

  • Reading, writing, and language comprehension tests
  • Recordings to analyze speech patterns

Images will be taken of the brain. This can be done with:

The brain's electrical activity may be measured. This can be done with an electroencephalogram (EEG).

FAS is rare. A team of specialists may be needed to make the diagnosis.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. Choices are:

  • Speech therapy to learn how to better move the lips and jaw during speech
  • Counseling to help cope with FAS

Prevention

There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem. Stroke is the most common cause. People who are at risk for stroke should take steps to lower their risk.

RESOURCES

Foreign Accent Syndrome Support—University of Texas at Dallas  http://www.utdallas.edu 

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)  http://www.nidcd.nih.gov 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada  http://www.heartandstroke.com 

Speech-Language and Audiology Canada  http://sac-oac.ca 

References

About FAS. Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) Support website. Available at: http://www.utdallas.edu/research/FAS/about. Accessed January 26, 2021.

Foreign accent syndrome. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://leader.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=2278208. Accessed January 26, 2021.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 12/2020
  • Update Date: 01/26/2021