American-born Michelle Myers has had a British accent for the last two years and she is not faking it. The 45-year-old woman from Arizona says she used to go to bed with blinding headaches in the past and wake up with a foreign-sounding accent.
The former Texas beauty queen has had episodes of Australian and Irish accents in the past but they stopped flowing in a couple of weeks. However, the British accent has stuck since the last two years, as reported by ABC affiliate KNXV. Referring to her current accent, Myers told the station, “Everybody only sees or hears Mary Poppins.”
Unusual as it sounds, the mother of seven has been diagnosed with Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS).
It occurs after a stroke or traumatic brain injury when the language centre of a person’s brain is damaged and the native language sounds tinged with a foreign accent, according to the Center for Communication Disorders at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Myers disease is very rare with only 60 reported cases within the past century, according to a study in 2011. A year before that, a woman in Virginia reportedly spoke with a Russian accent after she fell down the stairs and hit her head, according to The Washington Post. In another case, a woman from Ontario, Canada, started speaking in Maritime (Atlantic) Canadian English after she had a stroke.
Someone with FAS sees changes in their speech timing, intonation, and tongue placement. This can make an American ”Yeah” sound like ”Yah” or ”this and that” sound a heavier ”dis and dat”. The extra stress on certain syllables also leads to a change from the person’s native accent, according to the University of Texas Dallas (UT).
FAS has proven to be difficult to reverse as evident from UT’s attempt to treat a patient reverse their Swedish accent using accent reduction means. However, the university was unsuccessful in its attempts.
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