Foreign Accent Syndrome Gives Sufferers an International Sound
People With the Condition Speak With Accents From Foreign Countries They Have Never Visited
By ANDREA CANNING
Nov. 13, 2008
CindyLou Romberg sounds like she could be from any number of exotic countries around the world. She sometimes rolls her "R"s like a Russian, chops syllables like a German or turns an unsuspecting "W" into a "V," like a Swede.
One woman was diagnosed with a rare condition called foreign accent syndrome.
But Romberg is not Russian, German or Swedish. In fact, she has never even left her tiny hometown of Port Angeles, Wash.
Romberg suffers from what doctors call Foreign Accent Syndrome, or FAS, an extremely rare brain disorder that, as the name implies, causes its sufferers to speak as if they are from a foreign country.
"We'll be in the grocery store and someone will come up and say, 'Oh, you have a beautiful accent. Where are you from?'" Romberg told "Good Morning America."
The syndrome is likely related to an accident in 1981 when CindyLou suffered a depressed skull fracture after falling out of a moving truck, scientists say. She recovered from a severe brain injury, and spoke normally until just two years ago when she lost her voice for a couple of days after a visit with a chiropractor.
When her voice came back, it was not the one she had grown up with.
"She may have suffered a small episode of decreased blood supply to the brain during the manipulation that provided an additional injury, which led to the FAS," neuroscientist Julius Fridriksson said.
Fridriksson said that FAS comes from a trauma to the left side of the brain in an area responsible for speech.
Along with the foreign accents, Romberg has also dealt with an inability to say the names of her loved ones, including her daughter, Sadrianna.
Though the condition may be frustrating for Romberg, her husband Glenn told "GMA" he was more worried about her than about her voice.
"Once we figured out medically that there is nothing wrong with her, it's OK with me," he said. "I don't mind the voice at all."
But Romberg said she misses the voice she used to have, the voice that was a part of her.
"It's the voice I had for 49 years. It's the voice I'm used to. It's the voice that I said 'I do' to. It's the voice I spoke to my grandchildren with when they were first born," she said.
In the end, however, Romberg agreed with her husband.
"The most important thing is that you're healthy," she said. "When you look at the big scheme of things, this is a walk in the park."