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How to speak Australian English

If you live, study or work in Australia, it won’t be long before you hear some words or phrases that you’ll only hear in Australia (or from an Australian overseas). I live ‘across the ditch’ (over the Tasman sea) in New Zealand where Kiwi English is more common, but I spent a year working in Australia when I was younger and soon noticed that ‘Aussies’ (Australians) speak a little differently.  If your plans after taking IELTS are to head ‘down under’ (to Australia), here are some essential Australian English words and phrases. Greetings While you may have learned to greet someone in English with a ‘Hello’ or a ‘Hi’, in Australia you’re just as likely to be greeted with a ‘G’day’ or ‘G’day mate’.   ‘Mate’ is an informal word for ‘friend’ and is often used in Australia in greetings as well as in other situations, e.g. ‘We’ve been best mates for years’ (We’ve been best friends for years). Another common greeting is ‘How are you going, mate?’ (pronounced ‘How ya going, mate?’). If someone greets you in this way, it’s probably only a greeting not a question about your health, so an appropriate way to answer is simply ‘I’m good, thanks’. Free time Staying in one of the great Australian cities, you might prefer to spend an ‘arvo’ (afternoon) shopping, relaxing in a cafe or in your ‘togs’, ‘cossie’ or ‘bathers’ (swimwear) on the beach. If you decide to watch some football or ‘footy’ though, you may be surprised when the football match you watch is actually a game of rugby or Australian Rules. The ‘football’ of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo is called ‘soccer’ in Australia. Your trip to Australia won’t be complete unless you visit the ‘outback’ (the area of Australia a long way from towns, cities and the coast and where not many people live).    Names If you’re familiar with English names, you might be in for a few surprises in Australia as it’s really common for informal, usually shorter, forms to be used: ‘Davo’ for ‘David’ ‘Shaz’ or ‘Shazza’ for ‘Sharon’ ‘Jonno’ for ‘John’ or ‘Jonathan’ ‘Gazza’ for ‘Gary’ These diminutives (short, informal forms of words) aren’t limited to people’s names either. ‘Postie’ for ‘postman/postwoman’, ‘barbie’ for ‘barbecue’ and ‘rellies’ for ‘relatives’ are just a few other examples. Perhaps my favourite example of Australian English is the phrase ‘fair dinkum’ as it’s one I heard a lot when I was there and very different from anything I’d heard before. It may not be as common now but there’s still a good chance you’ll hear it. The uniquely Australian expression can be used to ask if something is real or true: You: “I just got the IELTS band score I need without doing any preparation.” Me: “Fair dinkum?” I’d say ‘fair dinkum’ because you really need to put in some ‘hard yakka’ (hard work) to give yourself the best chance of getting the IELTS band score you need. Good luck with your IELTS test! Pete  

Pete Jones

31 March, 2020

How to speak Australian English

Sydney Opera House

If you live, study or work in Australia, it won’t be long before you hear some words or phrases that you’ll only hear in Australia (or from an Australian overseas).
I live ‘across the ditch’ (over the Tasman sea) in New Zealand where Kiwi English is more common, but I spent a year working in Australia when I was younger and soon noticed that ‘Aussies’ (Australians) speak a little differently. 

If your plans after taking IELTS are to head ‘down under’ (to Australia), here are some essential Australian English words and phrases.

Greetings

While you may have learned to greet someone in English with a ‘Hello’ or a ‘Hi’, in Australia you’re just as likely to be greeted with a ‘G’day’ or ‘G’day mate’.

Gday Koala

 

‘Mate’ is an informal word for ‘friend’ and is often used in Australia in greetings as well as in other situations, e.g. ‘We’ve been best mates for years’ (We’ve been best friends for years).

Another common greeting is ‘How are you going, mate?’ (pronounced ‘How ya going, mate?’). If someone greets you in this way, it’s probably only a greeting not a question about your health, so an appropriate way to answer is simply ‘I’m good, thanks’.

Free time

Staying in one of the great Australian cities, you might prefer to spend an ‘arvo’ (afternoon) shopping, relaxing in a cafe or in your ‘togs’, ‘cossie’ or ‘bathers’ (swimwear) on the beach.

If you decide to watch some football or ‘footy’ though, you may be surprised when the football match you watch is actually a game of rugby or Australian Rules. The ‘football’ of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo is called ‘soccer’ in Australia.

Your trip to Australia won’t be complete unless you visit the ‘outback’ (the area of Australia a long way from towns, cities and the coast and where not many people live). 

Australian Outback

 

Names

If you’re familiar with English names, you might be in for a few surprises in Australia as it’s really common for informal, usually shorter, forms to be used:

  • ‘Davo’ for ‘David’
  • ‘Shaz’ or ‘Shazza’ for ‘Sharon’
  • ‘Jonno’ for ‘John’ or ‘Jonathan’
  • ‘Gazza’ for ‘Gary’

These diminutives (short, informal forms of words) aren’t limited to people’s names either. ‘Postie’ for ‘postman/postwoman’, ‘barbie’ for ‘barbecue’ and ‘rellies’ for ‘relatives’ are just a few other examples.

Perhaps my favourite example of Australian English is the phrase ‘fair dinkum’ as it’s one I heard a lot when I was there and very different from anything I’d heard before. It may not be as common now but there’s still a good chance you’ll hear it.

The uniquely Australian expression can be used to ask if something is real or true:

You: “I just got the IELTS band score I need without doing any preparation.”
Me: “Fair dinkum?”

I’d say ‘fair dinkum’ because you really need to put in some ‘hard yakka’ (hard work) to give yourself the best chance of getting the IELTS band score you need.

Good luck with your IELTS test!

Pete
 

Pete Jones

Pete has been helping IELTS test takers and teachers for many years and really enjoys helping people improve their English and their IELTS band score.

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