A mother of three has been diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder causing her to suddenly speak with a British accent.
“They are always asking me how my mom got that accent,” Kylie Alamia said about her mom, Lisa.
Despite her accent, Lisa Alamia is 100 percent Texan.
“People who don’t know me, they’re like, 'Hey, where are you from?'" Lisa Alamia said. “I’m from Rosenberg. They’re like, 'Where is that?' I’m like, 'Right here in Rosenberg.' 'Oh, you’re from here? How do you talk like that?' So that’s where the whole story comes up.”
Six months ago, jaw surgery to correct an overbite also changed Lisa Alamia’s speech.
“I thought she was joking with me,” said Kayla Alamia, Lisa Alamia’s oldest daughter. “But then she showed me that the doctor diagnosed her with foreign accent syndrome. Then I was like, 'Oh, Lord.'”
A Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital doctor said less than 100 people worldwide in the last 100 years get the syndrome.
“'Mum' is probably the one word I notice right away,” Alamia said. “'Kitten' (is another). They think I’m talking about a baby cat. I’m not. I’m saying, 'I’m just kidding.'”
Lisa Alamia’s neurologist, Dr. Toby Yaltho, put her through a battery of tests trying to answer the how’s and why’s. So far, he can’t.
For months, Lisa Alamia stayed quiet while worried about skeptics.
“I didn’t know the reaction I was going to get from people,” Lisa Alamia said. “So I didn’t know if they’re going to judge me. Are they going to think I’m lying or even understand how I’m speaking?”
Thanks to some ribbing from her family and friends, Lisa Alamia is more open than ever. Though her voice no longer intimidates her children.
“They’re like now there’s no way you sound ‘hood at all,” Lisa Alamia said. “Even if you tried, you wouldn’t be able to sound that way. 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.”
One day, she hopes to regain her voice. Until then, she’s learning to savor her accent.