An Asian Australian woman who woke up with an Irish accent after undergoing surgery has been struggling to get her original accent back.
How it happened: Angie Yen, who lives in Brisbane, Queensland -- and has never been to Ireland -- had her tonsils removed on April 19. Nine days later, she woke up with “an Irish-sounding accent” she did not recognize.
“I was getting ready for a job interview and I was just singing in the shower which I normally do and all these words were coming out; all the sounds I had never heard of before,” Yen told The Hard Shoulder. She immediately called a well-traveled friend, who then confirmed that she indeed sounded Irish.
Aside from getting an Irish accent, the 28-year-old says her singing voice also improved. She can now hit notes she was unable to hit before.
This week, Yen underwent a brain scan which confirmed “nothing wrong.” But she was diagnosed with Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS), a rare medical condition that may be triggered by neurological or psychological damage, according to speech pathologist Kirrie Ballard.
“Foreign Accent Syndrome is a legitimate disorder. It’s described as a person's speech changing, so that it sounds as though they're speaking in a different accent to their habitual accent,” Ballard told 60 Minutes.
Unknown prognosis: Due to the lack of science behind the condition, it’s unclear whether Yen will still be able to get her Australian accent back. Even if the condition ceases, it is possible for it to recur later in life, her doctors warned.
Yen says she was offered speech therapy, but she described it as “just trying to fake my Ozzie accent.” She also said her new Irish brogue gets thicker when she’s “really tired or fatigued or had a really bad day.”
“I have tried very, very hard but it is like a rubber band. The best way I can explain it is, the harder you pull the rubber band away the harder you pull back to Irish,” Yen told The Hard Shoulder.
Yen, however, is not only dealing with her condition. She’s also tired of social media users who ridicule her and claim that she’s faking the whole thing.
“I’m sick of being taken as a joke. It's a very serious thing,” she told 60 Minutes.
60 Minutes also interviewed Kate Baggs, who spoke with an Irish accent while recovering from a hemiplegic migraine in 2019. “In the middle of a sentence, my accent just shifted,” she told the outlet.
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