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Woman wakes up with Welsh accent despite never visiting the country

Watch: An English woman has shared how she woke up with a Welsh accent despite never visiting the country

An English woman who woke up with a Welsh accent, despite never visiting the country, has shared what it is like living with Foreign Accent Syndrome (FACS).

Zoe Coles, 36, is from Stamford, Lincolnshire, but developed the new accent overnight in June 2023 and hoped it would eventually wear off.

Fast forward nine months and the mum-of-two is still being asked if she's from Cardiff, despite her not previously being able to put on a Welsh accent or roll her Rs.

Coles says she now feels "anxious" when she leaves the house as she feels like she "doesn't fit in any more", because of her new voice.

She is desperately hoping she may regain her old accent, which will allow her life to return to normal.

"I am struggling a lot," the former bartender explains. "You are born with a voice, you grow up and develop a way of speaking.

"That has been taken away from me."

Zoe Coles woke up one day speaking with a Welsh accent. (Zoe Coles/SWNS)
Zoe Coles woke up one day speaking with a Welsh accent. (Zoe Coles/SWNS)

Coles was diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder (FND), a condition where there is a problem with how the brain sends and receives signals in January 2022.

The condition causes her to experience ticks, memory problems, slurred speech and pain in her legs.

"I was a full-time working mum, I could get up and clean the house in two hours, have a shower, get ready, go shopping, go to work and come home," she says of life before her FND diagnosis.

"Now I have to be assisted in the shower in case my legs go on me, I can't do the house work in two hours it is more like two days.

"I get so tired so quickly, I can do the shopping because I can hold the trolly but I can't do much more.

"It completely wipes me out."

Coles is living with Foreign Accent Syndrome. (Zoe Coles/SWNS)
Coles is living with Foreign Accent Syndrome. (Zoe Coles/SWNS)

Last summer, Coles also developed Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) - a rare condition where people develop speech patterns that are perceived as a foreign accent.

She says that when she has a bad FND flare-up her old accent will come back, but her speech is stuttered and slurred.

"When I am having a bad flare-up, I can't walk and my old accent will return back to English," she explains.

"I have no idea why because it is so rare not much is known about it."

Coles says her new accent makes her feel "anxious" in public.

"Part of me has learned to get on with it," she says. "But a few Welsh people have asked me where I am from and that is really difficult because I don't want to lie and say I am from somewhere in Wales.

"I have no clue about Wales, I have never been."

Coles pictured here with daughter Brooke and son Zak. (Zoe Coles/SWNS)
Coles pictured here with daughter Brooke and son Zak. (Zoe Coles/SWNS)

Having seen a neurologist, who revealed that medically nothing can be done, Coles says she wants to raise awareness of FAS.

"I want to show that this is real life," she explains.

"I am speaking out because I want people to see that these things really do happen.

"This is a reality for me."

Coles says her new accent has impacted her life and makes her feel 'anxious', pictured with fiance Lee. (Zoe Coles/SWNS)
Coles says her new accent has impacted her life and makes her feel 'anxious', pictured with fiance Lee. (Zoe Coles/SWNS)

What is Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS)?

According to the NHS's Health Research Authority Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) is a rare condition where a person's speech takes on an accent different from their usual accent and which other people can think sounds 'foreign'.

While most case reports describe foreign accent syndrome starting after a stroke, other brain injuries or disease, there are a small number of reports of FAS occurring where there has not been a brain injury or disease.

In some of these cases there are other functional (also called psychogenic, or conversion) neurological symptoms.

While more research is needed, FAS is believed to have two main causes: neurological conditions or damage and mental health conditions.

A 2019 analysis of 49 people with foreign accent syndrome shared in MedicalNewsToday found that the most common linked conditions were:

  • severe headaches or migraine (15 people)

  • stroke (12 people)

  • surgery to the face or mouth (6 people)

  • seizures (5 people)

As well as coping with the difficult and often sudden nature of speaking with a different accent, those living with the condition often also have to deal with surprising, and sometimes unkind, responses from those around them.

Treatment of FAS

While many causes of FAS are not curable, medication may help manage the symptoms.

In most cases, a doctor will recommend speech therapy to help a person regain their normal speech habits.

Additional reporting SWNS.

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