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Suddenly Irish?

You wake up in the morning and after your first few sentences people say “How do you speak all of a sudden?” Or stran­gers want to know if you origi­nate from Fran­conia, although you have never moved away from your nort­hern German home­land. This or some­thing similar could happen to people who suffer from the so-called foreign accent syndrome (FAS). Only early this year the case of a U.S. citizen went through the press, who suddenly found himself with an Irish accent after a cancer illness, without ever having been in Ireland.

In scien­tific lite­ra­ture, about 80 to 100 cases have been docu­mented world­wide in which people affected suddenly appear to speak in a foreign accent and are them­selves faced with a puzzle. Respon­sible are mainly neuro­lo­gical damage and appar­ently some­times mental illness.

But don’t get your hopes up for language acqui­si­tion without labo­rious lear­ning. FAS is really only about a changed way of spea­king, which is then inter­preted by the envi­ron­ment as a certain accent. Reports of people who suddenly speak foreign languages that they have never heard before (xenoglossia) rather belong to the para­psy­cho­lo­gical environment.

Brode­rick A et al. Foreign accent syndrome as a heral­ding mani­fes­ta­tion of trans­for­ma­tion to small cell neuro­en­do­crine prostate cancer. BMJ Case Rep. 2023 Jan 30;16(1):e251655.