Understanding English Down Under

If you’re thinking of relocating to Australia, you might be taking comfort in the fact that, though on the other side of the world, they speak the same language. However, while this may be the case, over the years, Australians have formed their own branch of English, known as Australian English – and it might take a bit of getting used to!

Origins of Australian English

The main difference between Australian English and British English is the slang used. Australian English takes its origins from a mixture of Aboriginal languages, convicts from the United Kingdom, foreigners flocking to the gold rushes, and bush rangers.

There are many words from Aboriginal languages that you may even be familiar with before moving to Australia, such as “boomerang” and “wallaby”. These words were taken from Aboriginal languages after the First Fleet arrived in 1788. At this time, more than 250 languages existed in the country – and it is estimated that about 400 words were included into the English languages during the first 100 years of European colonisation.

Things to Listen Out For

The National Museum of Australia says that one of the most common things to look out for in Australian English is abbreviations. Australians commonly shorten their words, often by adding “o” or “ie” to the end of the word. For example, “barbecue” is often shortened to “barbie”. A common way of saying hello is to say “g’day”, which is the abbreviation of “good day”.

Australians are also known to speak in idioms, often making comparisons between humans and animals. An example of this is the phrase, “flat out like a lizard drinking”. This is a play on words, where “flat out” means exceptionally busy, and to lay flat out like a lizard would literally be quite flat. The phrase also pokes fun at the rapid movements of a lizard’s tongue, meaning that the person has also been working quite hard.

Common Phrases to Learn

It might be an idea to invest in an Australian English dictionary – but for now, here are some phrases that you’ll need to acquaint yourself with when moving to Australia.

Aerial ping pong: Australian Rules Football

Arvo: afternoon

Big Smoke: the big city

Billy: teapot

Bogan: the Australian equivalent to a chav

Bottle-o: Bottle shop, often with a drive-through facility

Chuck a sickie: to take the day off work when you’re not sick

Fair Dinkum: true or genuine

Maccas: McDonald’s

Stoked: very happy

Woop Woop: the name given to any unimportant or faraway town