An Australian dentist who developed an Irish accent after tonsil surgery despite never having visited the country before has documented her vocal transformation a year later.
Brisbane professional Angie Yen, 29, who was born in Taiwan but moved to Australian when she was eight, didn’t know what to think about her new twang following an operation on her tonsils in April 2021.
Ms Yen has never been to the European nation, and has no Irish heritage.
The accent didn’t kick in until eight days after the operation in a phenomenon even her doctors couldn’t initially explain.
Brisbane professional Angie Yen, 29, who was born in Taiwan but moved to Australian when she was eight, didn’t know what to think about her new twang following an operation on her tonsils in April 2021
Scientist Karl Kruszelnicki said the condition, which is called Foreign Accent Syndrome and has been recorded about 100 times in history, was likely caused by a brain disorder.
He hit back at critics who claimed Ms Yen’s accent sounded fake or inconsistent, explaining the accent was not real but rather a ‘distorted version of the patient’s existing language.’
Ms Yen claims she went to the hospital and spoke to her specialist after the accent developed but was told to ‘sit tight’ and ‘let the body heal’.
Now, a year after her surgery, Ms Yen still has an Irish drawl but it’s far less obvious than it was in April 2021.
Now, a year after her surgery, Ms Yen still has an Irish drawl but it’s far less obvious than it was in April 2021
‘I still struggle to pronounce words sometimes in my professional life as a dentist – embarrassing at times, people struggle to understand what I’m saying and I get frustrated being asked to repeat myself,’ she told 7News.
‘I still sound different and some days with a thicker accent.’
There is no known cure for the disorder and therefore not much doctors can provide her with to prevent the accent from continuing.
‘After going viral, I had people from all over the world reach out to me saying how they were glad they finally found another person who has this isolating and rare condition and they felt validated,’ she said.
Ms Yen has used her TikTok account to raise awareness about FAS, sharing almost daily videos about the state of her voice.
Ms Yen has used her TikTok account to raise awareness about FAS, sharing almost daily videos about the state of her voice
What is Foreign Accent Syndrome?
Foreign Accent Syndrome is a rare disorder that sees the patient speak with a different accent than their natural speaking style.
It is usually the result of a head or brain injury, with strokes being the most common cause.
FAS can also occur after trauma to the brain, bleeding in the brain, a brain tumour or multiple sclerosis.
It has only been recorded 100 times since its discovery in 1907.
It causes suffers to pronounce vowels in different manners, move their tongue and jaw differently while speaking to produce a different sound and even substitute words for others they may not normally use.
Foreign Accent Syndrome can last months or years, or sometimes it may even be permanent.
‘I woke up this morning and I was speaking with my Aussie accent, and I called one of my friends and confirmed that my Aussie accent was back but during the phone call, within five to 10 minutes, she could see the deterioration of my accent back to Irish,’ she said on day two of the ‘change’.
‘I don’t know what to do, this is something that’s very different. I’m not even trying, I’m completely freaked out. I thought it was going to go away when I woke up this morning.’
The following day Ms Yen said there were ‘no traces of Aussie twangs anymore’ and she had gone ‘full Irish’.
‘I still can’t believe I woke up with an Irish accent yesterday. I’ve never been to Ireland. I grew up in Australia. My Aussie accent is gone.’
Ms Yen posted another video to her TikTok nine days after first noticing the Irish accent, saying it wasn’t as ‘thick’ anymore but said she was still very upset.
The following day Ms Yen said there were ‘no traces of Aussie twangs anymore’ and she had gone ‘full Irish’
‘In terms of how I am coping, I am definitely still in the third stage of grief, and the last two days were not pretty,’ she said in the video.
‘Yes I know I need medical attention and to see doctors but it’s a struggle to even find the right person to look into me and tell me what’s wrong and get me back to my old self,’ she said.
Professor Kirrie Ballard, a speech pathologist, confirmed the condition is medically genuine.
She labelled Foreign Accent Syndrome a ‘legitimate disorder’ which is triggered by psychological or neurological damage.
Dr Karl said the disorder can be fixed through speech training, potentially through an acting school or a speech pathologist
Doctor Karl Kruszelnicki also confirmed Foreign Accent Syndrome has been recorded about 100 times in history.
‘It is usually caused by a brain disorder. This can be from head injury, stroke or surgery. It can also be related to diabetes, immune disorders or other unknown causes,’ he said.
‘It’s not a real foreign accent, but rather a damaged form of the person’s native language and accent.’
Dr Karl said the disorder can be fixed through speech training, potentially through an acting school or a speech pathologist.