How to Speak Australian

Truth be told, I am still learning how to speak Australian. Before I moved here many people told me I would have culture shock, even though this is an English speaking country. I believed them. Except, I didn’t really believe them. I mean, I knew. But, I didn’t know. You know?

My first day of teaching Year 5 (translation: 5th grade) proved to be the most culturally shocking. It felt like every other word that came out of my mouth was an ‘American’ term that they in turn had an ‘Australian’ word for. I said sweater, they said jumper. I said sneaker, they said trainer. I said sweatpants, they said trackies. I said braid, they said plait. I said candy, they said lollies. I said markers, they said texters. I said backpack, they said bag (I flipped out on them at that point, “If you understand what I am saying enough to correct me, then don’t correct me. One of our classroom agreements is to, ‘Celebrate Our Differences’ are you celebrating our differences right now? NO YOU ARE NOT. If you really don’t understand what I am saying then ask politely, otherwise don’t say anything.” The class went pretty quiet after that. For about 10 seconds.)

They still accidentally correct me if I say a word ‘differently’ than they do. Data, inquiry, maroon, Adidas-turns out that one Americans do say wrong because it’s an actual German company and it’s NOT pronounced the way we say it!-but all the rest is tomato or tomato.

I have started a list in my phone to keep up with my Australian colleagues. There are times when they text me or I have conversations with someone and I get very confused. For example, “She shouts all the time” does not mean someone is yelling. ‘Shout’ is when you pay for someone’s meal or coffee. I know right?

Here’s just a few more (really this is the very shortened list):

Ta- Thank you
Wag/Wagging- skip or skipping, “Wagging school to go sight seeing I see” is a text I got once.
Bogan- hicks
Sticky beak- being nosey
Lollies- anything that I would call candy
Arvo- Good afternoon
Pash- to make out (I didn’t learn that one from experience)
Cuppa- hot drink (often tea)
Daggy- worn out, uncool, unfashionable
Woop-woop- Middle of no where (my assistant principal taught me that one!)
Sweet as/good as- I don’t want to finish that but it means something along the lines of: awesome! nice! really great!
Fair dinkum- Are you serious? Are you telling me the truth?
Horse riding- Horseback riding (seems incomplete without the back to me)
Aluminium- spelled differently, said differently. Al-Ū-min-ium. So weird.
Herb- pronounced with the H
Maccas- McDonalds (they like to shorten everything. I had people calling me “Mel” that hadn’t even met me in person yet)

And instead of saying, “Hi, how are you?” as a common greeting, everyone here says, “How ya going?”

Not only am I rewiring my brain to do everything opposite… I still say, “left, left, left” in my head when I am walking on the sidewalk or trying to figure out what side of the road to get the tram on, but I am learning how to greet in another language. Good ‘ol Australian English.

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