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In a medical emergency that results in a brain injury, such as a stroke, there are a number of health complications that can affect the patient afterward. One of the more well-known subsequent results is aphasia which is the impairment of speech and language. However, many people do not know that once the aphasia wears off, the patient may still be left with an accent. This sudden change in speaking is actually a syndrome known as foreign accent syndrome. However, Dr. Jack Ryalls, Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at University of Central Florida, explains that research has proven that these patients’ new way of speaking is actually not an accent. Furthermore, Dr. Sheila Blumstein, Albert D. Mead Professor of Cognitive Linguistics and Psychological Sciences at Brown University, states that people will perceive these as foreign accents, but in actuality, people who suffer from foreign accent syndrome have only developed slight variations in how they pronounce words which indicates to those listening to them that they have an accent.

So, what happens to those who suffer from foreign accent syndrome? Dr. Ryalls explains that chances of recovery are very slim–only about 30% are able to recover their old accent because therapy has been proven to not be beneficial. Along with this, people with foreign accent syndrome are likely to experience distress. Dr. Blumstein states that how an individual sounds and speaks contributes a lot to their self-identity, so it can affect a person’s perception of oneself. This distress can be furthered, too, by a change in how they are identified in the world. Dr. Blumstein explains that foreign accent syndrome can be isolating because many people will view this person as being from a foreign country. While many people do not recover, some are able to regain their old accents. Researchers have been looking into cases of recovery in order to improve the chances of recovery for others who suffer from foreign accent syndrome.

Guest:

  • Dr. Sheila Blumstein, Albert D. Mead Professor of Cognitive Linguistics and Psychological Sciences at Brown University
  • Dr. Jack Ryalls, Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Central Florida

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