When moving to Australia from England, the Australian accent and language didn’t even factor as a problem. We all speak the same language, right? It’s not like I’m moving to Spain or Italy where I would truly be isolated by my lack of foreign language. I was never a star pupil in my foreign language class at school so it made sense for me to move to a country that speaks the same words as I do… however, I was not prepared for the strong accent and some of the slang that dominates the vocabulary of many Australians I have encountered.
Often, people here are impressed with my very pronounced English accent; asking if the Queen taught me to speak (why not?!) or taking immense pleasure of guessing where I am from e.g. asking if I’m from Edinburgh or Glasgow (you obviously don’t know a thing about the difference between Scottish and English accents so please stop talking to me). I thought I had it figured out, until I worked in a bustling café where fast-talking or mumbling Aussies make quick orders with token bits of slang mixed in. All in all, guaranteed to send me in a spin and sound like a parrot constantly repeating, “What? WHAT???”, “What did you say??”, “What the hell is that??”.
My first dire mistake was ANZAC day. It’s on 25th April and is a national holiday to commemorate the ‘Australian and New Zealand Army Corps’ that have served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations. In Oz supermarkets, they have cookies that are named Anzac cookies…. 25th April rolls around and there I am sounding like the stupidest Brit in the world saying, “Wow, a day dedicated to cookies?! This is my kind of country!”. Turns out they were the biscuits that wives sent to their loved ones on the front line back in the day.
O.k. so I messed up a bit on Australian history that I was not aware of. Then the true slang shows its face in day to day communicating, and I’m not talking about the typical ‘Fair Dinkum!’, ‘Streuth!’ or ‘Bloody Oath’ which stereotypical Aussies have led us to believe.
Thongs are flip-flops, NOT your underwear so don’t get disgusted if they ask you if they can borrow your thongs. And there are other random day-to-day words/phrases that I’ve adjusted to:
“Let’s get BLIND tonight!’ – Let’s get so wasted until we can’t see or puke, or both.
“Awwwwwwwwwwww yeah??” – That’s said in agreement or awe.
“Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah” – That is merely a simple ‘No’.
“Doona” – Duvet or thick blanket.
“Let’s go to the Grog Shop” – Let’s go buy some alcohol.
“I’m popping to the Milk Bar” – I’m popping to the Convenience Store/Newsagent’s.
“Me dad caught me Wagging!” – My father caught me skipping school!
“He got sent out Woop Woop” – He had to go to a small unimportant town or place.
“Yup, she spat the dummy” – Yup, she was pissed off
“You bloody bludger” – You’re such a lazy so-and-so
However, the terms which I was most surprised about were the names of all the different immigrants who have infiltrated Australia. It is a melting pot of cultures where many are migrating over to this developed developing country where land is endless and jobs are multiple. But quite a few Aussies who I have met don’t hold back on their nicknames for foreigners. I already knew that they like to call the English ‘Pommes’, but was new to the terms ‘Wog, ‘FOB’ and ‘Abo’.
‘Wog’ is slang for a person of a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean origin, many are Italian and are proud to be Wogs. FOB stands for ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ which they apply to the Asian/Chinese. Technically that is what my Chinese relatives are as they migrated from Malaysia about 10 years ago, however this term is not politically correct or deemed a correct social term. Abos are what some Australians call the native Aboriginals, but again this is not politically correct.
I’m now used to the Australian accent, but now I’m struggling with the Kiwis (New Zealand) who have come over. My new chef at my work… she’s just got a new ‘bed’ but what I hear is her talking non-stop about her new ‘beard’. She hides the facial hair well.
To help you learn to copy (or simply understand) the Australian Accent better, we suggest you watch this video: