A mother of seven from Arizona fell asleep with a horrible headache and woke up with a British accent.
Michelle Myers, who’s in her 40s, has had the accent for several years now. Doctors believe she has a rare medical condition called “Foreign Accent Syndrome” or FAS. Myers has never been outside of the United States, according to ABC 15.
Myers has also woken up with different accents in the past, including an Irish accent and an Australian accent, on two separate occasions. In those cases the accents only lasted about two weeks.
Myers told ABC 15 that her new accent causes people to associate her with a popular movie character.
“Everyone only sees Mary Poppins or hears Mary Poppins,” she said.
Foreign Accent Syndrome was first documented by the medical community in 1907. At that time, a French neurologist had a patient from Paris who, after a stroke, spoke with an accent from northeast France, on the border with Germany, The Washington Post reported. There have also been cases of people waking up speaking other languages.
The University of Texas at Dallas says that Foreign Accent Syndrome can start from a stroke, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, or conversion disorder, but there are cases where doctors have not been able to determine the cause.
Myers also suffers from Ehers-Danlo disorder, which causes her pain and hypermobility in her joints.
Other People With FAS
A mother who came on the “Dr. Phil” show in February didn’t believe her daughter’s sudden new foreign accent was real.
“One day she had on her social media that she was practicing for a role of a girl with a British accent. Couple of weeks later she said she fell, she hit her head, and now she’s talking like that,” said the mother.
The daughter, called Rose, explained how she went through medical testing and that it wasn’t fake. She also described how her previous accent is no longer natural for her.
Texas Woman Lisa Alamia went into jaw surgery to fix an overbite, and emerged with a British accent.
Alamia explained how she is unable to return to her original accent even if she tries.
“My daughter laughs at the way I say ‘tamales.’ I used to be able to say it like a real Hispanic girl. Now I cannot,” she told CBS News.
A British woman whose accent started to shift between French and Chinese after an accident said some people speak to her as if she doesn’t understand English anymore.
She told the BBC about how frustrating it can be for people with the condition.
“People just take it as a joke condition. They focus on the fact that we speak with a [funny] accent,” Julie Matthias said.
Matthias thinks the condition started after a car accident, followed by migraine headaches and extreme pain. Doctors do not see the connection and are unsure of the source of Matthias’s new accent.
“Think: you go to sleep, wake up and no longer sound to you like the person you really are –and there’s nothing you can do about it,” said researcher Sheila Blumstein at Brown University, via the BBC. “That has a very profound effect on the patients.”
Matthias highlighted more of the troubles in what might be considered a novel disorder.
“It takes away your whole identity – you lose what was you,” Matthias told the BBC. “It was hard to look in the mirror and speak – because it wasn’t my voice.”
Other people with the condition report feeling isolated or marginalized. They notice people start to treat them differently than before due to an accent’s close association with a person’s identity.
“The way we speak is a window onto our inner self,” said Nick Miller of Newcastle University, via the BBC. “It marks social class, education level, whether you come from this place or that place – so consciously or subconsciously, we use accent to portray who we are and how we are.”
In the book “Foreign Accent Syndromes: The stories people have to tell,” one person with the disorder said that their voice sounds so foreign to them that when they are alone at home and speak, they feel like there is a “stranger in the house,” the BBC reported.