Australian English Introduction

Australian English Introduction
English is the main language of Australia, although not officially stated in the constitution. There are very few people in the country unable to speak the language but outsiders, especially non-native speakers of English, might sometimes have difficulty understanding some of the vocabulary of Australians.

A very distinctive accent has developed over three centuries, based mainly on immigrants. New Zealanders also sound quite similar although less pronounced. There is a subtle difference; however there isn't much regional variation in accents, but the native Australians – Aboriginals, have a notably different sound.

As with American accents on English, the present outcome in Australia is heavily the result of the earliest immigrants. Whereas Americans today sound closer to the Irish than their English forefathers, Australians are more likely to sound like someone from the East End of London. Cockney is a better description, an indeed it was a predominating accent among the mainly convict early immigrants. Later, Irish, Scottish and Welsh immigrants had some influence, but it was fairly well established by the time Asian and other ethnic groups arrived in Australia in numbers.

There's a certain twang and drawl to Australians, more pronounced the further you get into the Outback. 'too right' (for sure), 'strewth' (no kidding), 'chook' (chicken), 'fair dinkum' (for real), 'dunny' (outside toilet), 'true blue' (100%), 'shonky' (dodgy) and 'barbie' (barbecue) are some of the most famous. But there is a huge vocabulary of slang, with a habit of adding 'ee' to the end of familiar words or people, as in 'tinny' (tin beer car), 'swaggie' (swagman, or tramp), 'matey' (affectionate term for mate or friend) and 'footy' (Aussie Rules football). There's also a tendency to make fun of people and things through nicknames, usually in a derogatory way. The most popular being 'Pommie' for Englishmen, especially when there is cricket involved.

Australians tend to be blunt and upfront, which can be disconcerting but also useful in assessing just what their thoughts are. They are seldom subtle or restrained in their speech and unmindful of offending, certainly with people of foreign cultures. But usually its just steam being let off and the have a tendency to put the incident behind them quickly, so don't take it personally. City folk are more likely to think before speaking and be polite, there's seldom any real ill intention.

While pronunciation might be difficult sometimes, especially to those not confident with accents, Australians speak usually speak slowly, reflecting their generally laid-back character.