Australian English: Basics And Differences
You can be sure that you've almost reached a native-like English level. Like, you have zero problems with listening, speaking, reading, writing, and vocabulary. But then, unexpectedly, on your way to fluency, you bump into someone from Australia or simply YouTube giving you Australian content, and that's the moment you realize that you forgot about Australian English.
Sometimes people say Australia is like another planet because it's so far away from other continents and has a specific mix of cultures. The statement is correct, but it is also true that Australian English differs not only with an accent but in many other aspects. For example, many Australian words are unique and don't exist in British or American English. Have you got interested?
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What Is Australia's Language?
Legally Australia doesn't have an official language. But English is the country's most spoken language, making it a de facto national language. There are three Aussie dialects of English in Australia - Broad, General, and Cultivated. They differ in the pronunciation of consonant and vowel sounds. You will find out more about the distinctions in the video below. However, General Australian is the most common these days.
Australian Language: A Dive Into History
To understand why Australian English became so distinctive, you'd better take an excursion into history with our timeline. So, let's start our trip!
1788: British colonists and convicts reached Australia's shores and started their new life on a new continent that was recently discovered. Back then, Australian English and Aussie English developed through dialect leveling, which is a process of merging different dialects. Because the people who came to Australia were from different parts of the United Kingdom, they spoke a variety of English accents as well as Irish as a first language. So, when they all started living together, their English assimilated to the point when there were no distinct characteristics. But at the same time, the new English that was formed couldn't be recognized as classical British, for instance. And when the first generation of native-born colonists was born in the territory of Australia, they started to speak Australian English.
1855: All of the main changes in English on the territory of Australia happened after a big wave of immigration from the United Kingdom. They brought linguistic influences from many parts of the world, including the lexicon from American English. Because native-born colonists kids were exposed to different dialects growing up, they acquired different sounds that led to the mispronunciation of vowels and diphthongs. Also, school inspectors noticed that kids tended to mispronounce -ing ending as -en.
The 1890s: Families from the socially aspirational classes determined their kids to learn the correct pronunciation of vowels and diphthongs. For that matter, they hired teachers to work on kids` speech. Later it led to forming of a variation of the Australian accent known as Cultivated Australian now.
1898: Edward Ellis Morris published the first work about differences in English on the Australian continent, called "Austral English: A Dictionary Of Australasian Words, Phrases, And Usages. "
The 1900s: Australian English was influenced by popular American films and the presence of the American military in the area. As a result, Aussies obtained some universal informal words and phrases.
1976: Graeme Johnston published Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary, the first general Australian dictionary.
1988: The Australian National Dictionary was published for the first time.
The 1990s and onwards: People in Australia started acquiring a General accent in contrast to Broad and Cultivated. Aussie English changed due to the constant evolution of the language in general and digital innovations such as the Internet and social media.
How To Speak Australian English: All Peculiarities
Because of all the historical aspects of the English development on the Australian continent, a new language variation was formed – Australian English. The main aspects of AuE are adopting grammar from British and American English, a specific accent, and an absolutely unique lexicon used only in Australia. Let's take a closer look at everything that was mentioned!
Australian English Grammar: Is There Any Difference
English grammar is a constant concept meaning that general rules apply to all variations of spoken English – British, American, and Australian. Indeed, there are some slight differences among varieties of English. However, this is true more for British and American English because Australian English grammar is a mashup of BrE and AmE. So, if you are familiar with minor distinctions between British and American English, it will be easier for you to get Australian English grammar. All you need to do is memorize which variant of the rule to use - BrE or AmE. Nonetheless, we are happy to break down British and American English grammatical differences that apply to Australian English.
Shared with British English
- Prepositions before days are a must in Australian English. They can't be omitted as in American English. Example: We planned to throw a baby shower on Wednesday.
- In contrast to American English, the nouns "hospital" and "university" do not require a definite article. Example: Paramedics ran to the hospital after the patient's pulse was back.
- Australians use "to" for ranges of dates, including days of the week, months, and years as opposed to American "through ." Example: This week, I have to work night shifts from Tuesday to Friday.
- Using "and" before the tens when speaking or writing out numbers is rather casual or informal in American English but can be skipped. But the insertion of "and" in Australian English is as mandatory as in British English. Example: I couldn't imagine that I would wait in line for the US visa for so long; my number was two hundred and fifty-four.
- In contrast to AmE, the preposition "to" in "write to" can't be omitted. Example: I am writing to you to invite the whole family to my dad's retirement party.
- Australians never "take a shower" or "take a bath ." Like all British people, they "have a shower" and "have a bath."
- As in Scottish English, but can be placed at the end of a sentence instead of the usual at the beginning. Example: I don't need to know that but.
- The verb "saw," which means "to cut with a tool that has sharp teeth," differs from the American form in the past participle. It's "sawn" instead of "sawed ." Example: I couldn't find the ax to chop a log, so I had sawn it that day.
Shared with American English
- Unlike Brits, Australians use "on the weekend" instead of "at the weekend ." Example: Do you have time for a romantic date on the weekend?
- Australians don't use the verb "to read," meaning "to study," as British people. They would never say, "I decided to read law after high school."
- Also, it's impossible to use "should," meaning "would" in AusE as in BrE. People won't understand what you mean by "I should like to spend Christmas together."
- Like Americans, British people don't like to use modal verbs "shall," "shan't," and "ought" instead of "will," "won't," and "should." The only exception for using them is legal contexts, as in the Australian Constitution.
- As in AmE, the" River" follows the river's name. Example: Hudson River. However, in South Australian English, they stick to the British convention of coming before the name for the following three rivers: Murray, Darling, and Torrens.
- The sayings "yeah no" / "yeah nah" and "no yeah" / "nah yeah" can mean both "no" and "yes," respectively.
- Collective nouns (words that refer to a group of people or things) take a singular verb in Australian English as in American English. Example: The audience was clapping standing.
- Speaking about time, Aussies use the American way of saying what time it is. Example: half past six instead of half six.
How To Make Australian Accent: The Features Of Aussie Pronunciation
The Australian accent is a unique thing. At first glance, it may seem like British, but the more you listen to a native speaker, the more you recognize specifics in pronunciation that does not apply to the British accent.
Generally speaking, the sounds in every language are pretty diverse, and in different areas of the same country, people sound slightly different because of how they acquired the language. Australia is not an exception, and Aussies sound pretty distinct from other native English speakers. Sometimes people even complain that they can't understand Australians because of their accent.
To gain an Aussie accent, you should familiarize yourself with several things to sound more like Chris Hemsworth or Cate Blanchett. They both are Australian but speak with different kinds of Aussie accents.
- First of all, relax your mouth and loosen your jaw. To speak like an Australian, you should move your mouth more than usual and keep your lips slightly open. Smiling a bit will also help sound more natural.
- Refrain from making pauses between words and blend them. That is the most striking feature of the Aussie accent. It is even reflected in the famous Australian greeting "G'day."
- Make all your sentences sound like questions by raising the pitch of your voice at the end. That's a signature thing of Australian native speakers. They do it all the time?
- The Aussie accent is non-rhotic, which means natives drop "r" a lot. At the end of the words and before consonants, it is completely silent, and in other cases, they say a soft "r ." Also, "r" can appear between syllables ending in a vowel sound and between the AW and the A.
- Australians use a soft American flapped /t/ between two vowels in the middle of the word or word groups. So, the favorite word for examples on this matter, "water," will sound like "wohhdar."
- G-dropping in -ing is another signature feature of the Australian accent. When you drop g in -ing, the sound won't resonate in your nose, and you pronounce an average "n ." But this rule can't be applied to short words like "song ."No Aussie will say it as "son."
- No Yod-dropping. Aussies pronounce words that have "consonant letter + u" in them with a yod - the phonetic sound /j/. You can recognize a yod in words like "yes" and "yacht ."That is why no Australian person will say "Tuesday" as Brits or Americans.
- Australians tend to make two vowels out of one long vowel sound. Our favorite example is the adjective "nice," which sounds like "noice."
- In AuE, almost every unstressed vowel is pronounced with "schwa," which sounds like "uh" or "eh." So, don't push yourself to draw out all the vowels in unstressed syllables.
- Have you noticed how strange the Australian "no" is? They pronounce it like "naur." Aussies always add a soft "r" to the end of a long "o" sound. The same happens in "window" ("wehn-daur").
Australianisms As A Part Of Australian English Vocabulary
Since Australia was discovered and colonized by residents of the United Kingdom, the AusE shares the spelling with British English. So, some words would differ in spelling from American versions. For instance, verbs that in AmE are written with -ize in Aussie English will be written with -ise (realise, recognize, apologise); verbs that in American English end with -yze will end with – yse (analyse, paralyse, catalyse); in contrast to American spelling words that end with -or, -er and – log will be written with -our (colour, honour, behavior), - re (fibre, centre, metre) and – logue (catalogue, dialogue, monologue). Also, in Australian English, when they add suffixes to words ending in l where the consonant is unstressed, they write it with double l (travelling, cancelled, counsellor).
Nonetheless, there are some similarities between Australian and American English. For example, Aussies write words ending in -eable in British English end in -able (livable, sizable, movable); when Australians add -ing ending to the words, they skip e if it was originally there (aging, routing); and words often with -mme ending in British English will be written with -m (program, aerogram).
Moving to the vocabulary. Mostly Australian English shares words with BrE, but some were taken from AmE. You just need to memorize that they use American "gasoline" instead of British "patrol" or a British idiom "a drop in the ocean" in contrast to American "a drop in the bucket."
But the most significant feature of the Australian lexicon is australianism. According to Oxford University Press, australianism is a word, phrase, pronunciation, idiom, or another usage peculiar to, or particularly common in, Australia, which includes loans from Aboriginal languages. The examples are but not limited to the already well-known "kangaroo" and "boomerang ."Also, there exist so many australianisms that people with British or American English are unfamiliar with. For example, "Bung" means "dead," "hard yakka" is "hard work," and "woop-woops" means "remote country."
Aussies use diminutives, shortened, modified versions of common words with added suffixes. So, for instance, Australians say "agro" (aggressive), "barbie" (barbecue), "totes" (totally), "Maccas" (McDonald's), and "coz" (because). Why so? Apparently, Aussies love to sound cute.
To learn more about Australian slang, read our article "Guide To Aussie Slang: 30 Australian English Phrases And Idioms." There, you will find everything you need to understand Aussies in everyday communication. Trust us, to survive in Australia, you have to know, let's say, "G'Day" is a greeting.
And if you decide to write documents in Australian English, don't forget to change the language to "English (Australian) on your laptop; otherwise, Word won't recognize lots of words and will underline them as misspelled or non-existing.
Learn Aussie English With Promova
The best way to learn Australian English is with the help of a professional teacher. Our platform Promova gives English learners from all over the world an opportunity to dive into the Aussie language and culture. We offer Australian English courses for students of any level of English. So whether you choose to learn Aussie English 1-to-1 with a tutor or in group classes, our certified native-level professionals are ready to help you.
Our tutors will create a personalized learning plan for your needs and goals. For example, if you want to move to Australia for work or studying, just let our teachers know, and they will prepare you for a new turn in life. The Promova tutors know what lexicon you might need in Australia and will provide you with all the necessary vocabulary required to understand a true Aussie. Also, you will benefit from the lessons on Promova in accent and understanding speech by ear.
Also, don't forget about the Promova app, which will let you learn the basics of English grammar and tons of new words and phrases for diverse life situations. Just download the app and receive access to the lexicon for traveling, business, and general needs. The pleasant bonus is that you can learn English with English without relying on your first language. Instead, it will make you switch your brain entirely to English, so you start thinking in English and improve your fluency. Furthermore, for TV shows, fans can learn with a separate course, "English with TV series," where you can find vocabulary from iconic TV shows of all times.
Australian English aka Aussie language, is a variation of the language that gathered specifics of British and American English. That is why it can seem familiar in terms of grammar and general vocabulary. However, when it comes to the Australian accent, words sound different because of the way Aussies learned how to pronounce them a long time ago. Moreover, some of the Australian lexica are quirky and aren't used in other parts of the world. So, to understand Australians, you need to build a solid grammar base, add a common vocabulary, enrich it with unique Aussie terms, phrases, and slang, and practice the accent with listening and active speaking. But, if you are determined and ready to put effort into learning, you can succeed in Australian English. Crikey!
How many people speak Australian English?
Most Australian residents speak English in day-to-day life. According to the 2021 Census, the percentage of people who speak exclusively English at home is 72%, equal to more than 18,3 million people. However, there are some bilingual residents and immigrants who can also speak English along with other languages. So, the total number of English-speaking people in Australia is higher. Just for reference, the Australian population makes up 25,890,77 people.
What are tv shows to watch to train Aussie Accent?
Unfortunately, only a few good tv shows are produced in Australian English. But still, there is some lit content you can watch to improve your understanding of australianisms and the Aussie accent. We recommend you to watch "Please Like Me," which is a semi-autobiographical comedy-drama about the man's life after his coming out; "Summer Heights High," considered one of the best Australian comedy tv shows about high school life; and "Everything's Gonna Be Okay" about the life of Nicholas and his two half-sisters after the death of their father.
What other languages are spoken in Australia?
Aside from English, the other popular spoken languages in Australian households are Mandarin - 2.7%, Arabic - 1.4%, Vietnamese - 1.3%, Cantonese - 1.2%, Punjabi - 0.9%, and others. Before European colonization, over 250 Australian Aboriginal languages existed on the Australian continent. However, according to National Indigenous Languages Survey Report 2005, approximately 110 are still used only by older people, and all age groups speak less than 20. Also, more than 10,000 Australians reported using Auslan, a sign language, in the 2016 Census.
What foreign languages do Australian kids learn at school?
Japanese, Italian, Indonesian, French, German, and Mandarin are popular foreign languages to study at Australian schools. However, kids also learn other languages of their choice.