Angie Yen grew up in Australia, but she doesn't sound like it. For the last two weeks, the 27-year-old has been speaking with an Irish accent, and not out of choice. Indeed, the Brisbane dentist, who's never been to Ireland, couldn’t have told you what an Irish accent sounded like until a world-traveling friend told her it was precisely what was coming out of her mouth. Yen was singing in the shower 10 days after undergoing tonsil surgery when she first noticed changes in her voice. "I was singing notes that I didn’t think I could hit before, even though my throat was quite sore," she tells 7News. "I knew something wasn't right." While she hasn’t been officially diagnosed, Yen says she and her primary doctor suspect she's suffering from foreign accent syndrome—a bizarre speech disorder known to affect 80 people worldwide, according to a 2018 study.
It's marked by "difficulty in moving or coordinating the muscles that we use to produce speech," which "causes inaccuracies," particularly with the sounds of vowels, one expert tells 7News. The condition is usually associated with stroke or brain injury. However, an Oregon woman awoke from dental surgery with an accent described as part Irish, part South African, and part Transylvanian. Yen's case is different in that "everything was normal" until well after her tonsillectomy. "I grew up here … I went to school here, and [now] I feel like I don't really belong," she says, per ABC Australia. Sky News reports her Australian accent did return, but only for a short spurt. "Today I tried as hard as I can to talk normally, and no, it's full Irish," she says in a video posted to TikTok, where she's been sharing her experience. In another video, Yen gets "tipsy" to show the Irish accent sticks. (A Texas woman spoke with a British accent after jaw surgery.)