American woman has been left with a British accent after having a
Tiffany Roberts suffered a stroke four years
This is despite the fact that Tiffany Roberts, 61, has never been
to Britain. Her accent is a mixture of English cockney and West
Doctors say Mrs Roberts, who was born and bred in Indiana, has a
condition called foreign accent syndrome.
This rare condition occurs when part of the brain becomes
damaged. This can follow a stroke or head injury. There have only
been a few documented cases.
Mrs Roberts discovered she had a British accent after recovering
her voice following a stroke in 1999.
"When people first started asking me where in England I was from
and a family member asked why am I talking that way, that is when I
became very conscious that a part of me had died during the stroke,"
years on, she still struggles to convince people that she is a born
and bred American.
"People in America accuse me of lying when I say I was born in
"They would say 'What are you saying that for? Where in England
are you from?'
"I would insist that I am not."
A tape recording of her voice before the stroke shows Mrs Roberts
used to speak with a broad and relatively deep accent. She now
speaks in a much higher pitch.
Doctors are still trying to find out exactly why foreign accent
But Dr Jack Ryalls of the University of Central Florida, said it
is a real medical condition, which can occur after a patient has a
"They recover to various degrees. When they don't recover or when
they only have very, very residual effects left its heard as an
accent. Its a real phenomenon. It just hasn't been documented very
Scientists at Oxford University are among those trying to get to
the bottom of the syndrome.
Last year, they confirmed that patients can develop a foreign
accent without ever having been exposed to the accent.
This is because they haven't really picked up the accent. Their
speech patterns have changed. Injury to their brain causes them to
lengthen syllables, alter their pitch or mispronounce sounds. These
changes make it sound like they have picked up an accent. They may
The first case of foreign accent syndrome was reported in 1941 in
Norway, after a young Norwegian woman suffered shrapnel injury to
the brain during an air raid.
Initially, she had severe language problems from which she
eventually recovered. However, she was left with what sounded like a
strong German accent and was ostracized by her community.