Dr Karl has revealed why a young Brisbane dentist woke up from tonsil surgery to discover she had an Irish accent, despite never visiting the country in her life.
Angie Yen, who was born in Taiwan but raised in Australia, was shocked to realise her accent suddenly changed as she sang in the shower eight days after the surgery.
Scientist Karl Kruszelnicki said the condition – Foreign Accent Syndrome, which 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.’
Australian dentis Angie Yen (left) woke up with an Irish accent, despite never visiting the country in her life. Dr Karl (right) said she likely had Foreign Accent Syndrome
‘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,’ the popular scientist captioned a video directed to Ms Yen on TikTok.
‘It’s not a real foreign accent, but rather a damaged form of the person’s native language and accent.
‘To speak clearly requires incredibly precise control of the lungs, larynx, tongue, lips, jaw and mouth. Even a tiny amount of alcohol can make you slur your words.’
Dr Karl said the disorder could be fixed through speech training, potentially through an acting school or a speech pathologist; which would be covered by Medicare.
Ms Yen (pictured) woke up from an operation on her tonsils to find she was speaking with an Irish accent eight days later
Ms Yen has documented her traumatic experience with Foreign Accent Syndrome on TikTok with daily vlog updates.
In a video posted on Wednesday, Ms Yen revealed she was struggling to pay for treatment despite having ‘top cover’ private health insurance.
‘It’s un-nerving to suddenly lose control of one’s voice and to be locked into a single speech modality. I hope the acting classes help,’ Dr Karl told Ms Yen.
Ms Yen, who documented her transformation over two weeks, showed the Irish accent progressively getting stronger as she recovered from surgery.
The accent didn’t kick in until eight days after the operation in a phenomenon even her doctors couldn’t explain.
She claims she went to the hospital and spoke to her specialist after the accent persisted but was told to ‘sit tight’ and ‘let the body heal’.
‘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.
‘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.’
Ms Yen believes she is suffering from Foreign Accent Syndrome, a condition that has only been recorded just over 100 times in history and usually occurs after a brain injury
Ms Yen has embraced her Irish accent, attaching the nation’s initials and a four-leaf clover to her Instagram bio
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’ any more but said she was still very upset.
‘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 in her latest video.
She said she’s found a neurologist who specialises in stroke rehabilitation who is willing to meet with her and help diagnose the problem, without confirming it is FAS.
Several commenters accused Ms Yen of fabricating the story, but she angrily rejected the claim and said she hopes people ‘learn something from her journey.’
‘Unfortunately it’s not fake. I bloody damn hope that my Aussie accent is coming through, as it’s what I’ve had for the last 20 years,’ she replied to one critic.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Ms Yen for comment.
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 differelt 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.